MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Twins remain in first place, and have been since May 11, it's become more and more apparent their pitching needs to improve if they're to remain surprise contenders this season.
Their rotation depth has been tested with veterans Phil Hughes and Hector Santiago on the 10-day disabled list, causing the Twins to turn to unproven starters such as lefty Nik Turley, who struggled in an 8-1 loss to the second-place Indians in the series opener on Friday night. Turley, making his second-career start after 10 seasons in the Minors and a stint in independent ball, was hit hard, allowing eight runs on nine hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings. It moved Cleveland one game back of Minnesota in the AL Central.
Turley admitted he put too much pressure on himself, trying to pitch deep into the game with Saturday's doubleheader looming. Now the Twins will bring in reinforcements, as Adam Wilk will be called up to start the first game, while relievers Alex Wimmers and Alan Busenitz are also expected to be added to the roster.
"I tried to do too much instead of sticking with my game plan and staying within myself," Turley said. "There were a lot of emotions going on. It was just hard to control."
The Twins now have a 5.81 ERA in June, which ranks as the fifth-worst in the Majors over that span. Minnesota has mostly weathered it, going 8-7 this month, but it's a trend that can't continue.
"Hopefully someone is going to step up and get hot and realize that not only is there a need for depth in the rotation, in terms of competitiveness and consistency," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "If I was young and saw what was going on here and I was starting pitcher, I'd be hungry."
It doesn't get much easier for the Twins the rest of the series, as they turn to Wilk for the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. He has been designated for assignment twice this season and has a career 6.57 ERA in 37 innings.
Rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia starts the nightcap, and while he's shown flashes, including a stretch of four straight solid outings, he gave up eight earned runs in his last start. Right-hander Kyle Gibson starts the finale on Sunday, and was expected to take a step forward this year, but instead has a 6.79 ERA in 11 starts and had a stint at Triple-A Rochester in May.
"We talked about shaping up our rotation a few weeks ago and I didn't think we'd be running out the guys that we are, but that's because of injuries and different things," Molitor said. "But it's the reality. The first three starters of this series have less than 15 starts between them."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.