A thin middle infield seems to be the biggest concern for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire right now with three of his middle guys on the DL, but currently the infield options at Triple-A Rochester are all dinged up as well.
Infielder Howie Clark, who was recently called up for a brief stint, is currently sitting out with a strained rib cage muscle. Third baseman Brian Buscher has been limited to DH duty due to a case of patellar tendinitis, which Gardenhire said was made worse by him being hit in the knee multiple times by pitches over the last two weeks.
Buscher returned to the field on Tuesday night in Rochester's contest, starting the game at third base. And Gardenhire indicated that if Buscher is deemed healthy, he likely could get the call.
"He probably would be the best option to come and play even though he can't play the middle," Gardenhire said. "But he'd be a body. I have to see if he's able. I don't even know if he's able. I heard MRIs are possible, cortisone shots possible. That's not the kind of player I can bring up here and sit on my bench -- if that's the case."
In addition to deciding on a position player, a decision also still has to be made on which pitcher will be moved to make room for another position player. Right-hander Juan Rincon has struggled the most of any pitcher recently, posting a 10.32 ERA in his last nine outings, but he's out of options and has enough service time to refuse an assignment in the Minors. Brian Bass, Craig Breslow, and Boof Bonser all are out of options as well.
But with the club fairly set on reducing its pitching numbers, the Twins will either have to risk losing a pitcher this week or make a trade.
A decision that Smith acknowledges will be difficult -- although he said that's nothing new.
"Every roster decision is a difficult one," Smith said.
Adding to the difficulty certainly is not having a direction answer for the position player opening. But Smith said, the team will just do the best it can to try and proceed with the right answer.
"We've had to tap into Rochester much more than we expected to and now they have got a few guys who are also banged up," Smith said. "It's just a tough part in the season and we'll just have to get through it."
MIN: RHP Nick Blackburn (4-4, 3.94 ERA)
This will be Blackburn's second start of the year against the Indians. The right-hander held the Indians scoreless for 7 2/3 innings in that start at the Metrodome on April 19.
CLE: RHP Paul Byrd (3-5, 4.46 ERA)
Byrd held the Twins to a run on six hits in seven innings in a no-decision on April 20.
Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla each extended their career-high hitting streaks on Tuesday. Gomez brought his to 11 with a single in the first and Casilla's rose to 12 with a bunt single in the same inning. ... The Twins have already signed six players from last week's First-Year Player Draft. They include: Second-round pick Tyler Ladendorf -- an infielder from Howard College; third-round pick Bobby Lannigan -- a right-hander from Adelphi University; 10th-round pick Evan Bigley -- an outfielder from Dallas Baptist University; 13th round pick Michael Harrington -- an outfielder from the College of Charleston; 21st-round pick Steve Blevins -- a right-hander from Marshall University; and 25th-round pick Alex Curry -- a right-hander from Cypress College. All six have reported to Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins began a mini-camp on Tuesday.
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Official game notes
Thursday: Twins (Livan Hernandez, 6-3, 5.32) at Indians (Aaron Laffey, 3-3, 2.98), 6:05 p.m. CT
Friday: Twins (Kevin Slowey, 2-6, 5.15) at Brewers (Dave Bush, 2-6, 5.85), 7:05 p.m. CT
Saturday: Twins (Glen Perkins, 2-2, 4.58) at Brewers (Jeff Suppan, 4-4, 3.78), 6:05 p.m. CT