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Kubel forcing Gardenhire's hand

Kubel forcing Gardenhire's hand

KANSAS CITY -- The Twins are heading to Detroit for the final leg of their three-city road trip, and it will mark Craig Monroe's first return to Comerica Park.

Monroe spent parts of six seasons with the Tigers before he was traded last August to the Cubs and then to Minnesota this past November.

But if Monroe is in the lineup on Monday for the first of two games for the Twins against the Tigers, it doesn't appear like it will be in place of Jason Kubel.

Kubel has been one of the Twins hottest hitters so far on this road trip. Kubel came into Sunday's game against the Royals having hit .313 (5-for-16) in the first four games. He went 1-for-4 Sunday.

The left-handed hitter has three home runs so far this season, tying him with Justin Morneau for the team lead, and his nine RBIs are the most of any Twin.

Manager Ron Gardenhire is not surprised by Kubel's increased production.

"I've said all along, 'This guy is one of our best hitters,'" Gardenhire said. "It was just a matter of time. Last year, I thought the last month and a half we were starting to see signs of his legs underneath him better and him really being able to get after balls. In Spring Training, we saw him put a lot of good swings out there. I think you are seeing a guy that is coming along and his legs are really underneath him right now."

Monroe and Kubel were expected to share playing time at the designated hitter spot this season, but so far Kubel has been getting the majority of at-bats there. The Twins signed Monroe to hit against left-handers, but Gardenhire even said Sunday that he's not afraid to use Kubel against southpaws, either.

"There are going to be some matchups you don't like any lefty to get into, but there's not too many of those with [Kubel]," Gardenhire said. "It seems like he's on the ball pretty good."

The Twins won't be facing a southpaw on Monday as they'll take on right-hander Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers, but they will see a southpaw on Tuesday when Nate Robertson gets the start. So if Monroe doesn't see his action in the opening game of the series in Detroit, then he could find his way into the lineup for the final game of the road trip.

Pitching matchup
MIN: RHP Nick Blackburn (0-1, 2.25 ERA)
Blackburn continued to turn heads in his second Major League start. He gave up just two runs on seven hits over five innings against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. With a dominating fastball and cutter, Blackburn has had success by mixing in his offspeed pitches more frequently. He now must try to carry that same plan into his first career start at Comerica Park.

DET: RHP Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 3.97 ERA)
Bonderman became the first Tigers pitcher to earn a victory with his five-plus innings of work on Wednesday at Boston, recovering from a pair of early runs to keep the mighty Red Sox lineup relatively in check. He continued to show progression with his offspeed stuff, using it liberally and early to try to get Boston's power hitters off their timing. That could come in handy against a Twins lineup that has put up big innings against him over the years.

Tidbits
Matt Tolbert did not get a start in Sunday's game after going 0-for-4 on Saturday against the Royals, though he did strike out in a pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth. Gardenhire said he will continue to mix in the utility infielder, but that it could be difficult if the other infielders continue to play well. ... Right-handed pitcher Rob Delaney was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Week for the period ending Friday. Delaney, a closer, pitched six scoreless innings for Class A Fort Myers and converted all three of his save opportunities.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN

On radio
• TRN

Up next
• Tuesday: Twins (Scott Baker, 2-0, 4.63) at Tigers (Nate Robertson, 0-1, 7.84), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Rays (James Shields, 1-1, 3.00) at Twins (Livan Hernandez, 3-0, 2.57), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Rays (Jason Hammel, 0-1, 4.15) at Twins (Boof Bonser, 1-2, 2.84), 7:10 p.m. CT

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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