At-bats even harder to find for Lamb

At-bats even harder to find for Lamb

MINNESOTA -- Mike Lamb signed with the Twins this offseason for the chance to be the club's everyday third baseman. But now, Lamb has been officially relegated to bench duty.

Manager Ron Gardenhire has spoken with Lamb recently about his decreasing role. And he did so again on Friday, making clear to the infielder his current situation.

"He'll pinch-hit, maybe spot play at first base and spot play at third," Gardenhire said. "But right now, the way the other guy is playing, there is not a lot of at-bats [at third]."

Brian Buscher's emergence at third has not only cost Lamb his starting job but it's made opportunities for playing time at the position scarce. Both are left-handed hitters, and while Buscher hasn't had tremendous success against left-handed pitchers, Lamb wouldn't even be an option to fill in when the Twins face two of Cleveland's left-handers in the next two days. He's struggled against southpaws this season, batting just .077 (2-for-26).

Lamb has just seven plate appearances since June 14, four of those coming in pinch-hit appearances and three when he was the designated hitter in a game against the Brewers on Sunday. Lamb has three hits over that span, including one when he pinch-hit for Jason Kubel in the eighth inning of Friday night's 12-3 win over Cleveland.

Gardenhire, who spent the majority of his Major League career as a bench player, said he understands how frustrating the situation has been for Lamb. Although Lamb spent the majority of the last four seasons coming off the bench for the Astros, the bench role in the National League is quite different than one in the American League. The lack of double switches and pinch-hitting roles in the AL limits opportunities for bench players to get playing time.

In fact, Gardenhire said he's never had a situation arise quite like the one Lamb finds himself in -- where every position he plays already has a left-handed-hitting option.

"I've got a left-handed DH, a left-handed third baseman -- that's what makes it so tough," Gardenhire said. "It's not easy for him. He came over here to play. He loves the team, likes the way we're winning ballgames and he understands it. But still, he wants to play."

Gardenhire said there is a possibility that Lamb could see the occasional start in the DH spot. More likely, he could see time at first base if Justin Morneau gets a DH day when the team heads to Boston and Detroit for a seven-game roadtrip that begins Monday.

Pitching matchup
MIN: RHP Kevin Slowey (5-6, 3.47 ERA)
Slowey continues to demonstrate why he was so coveted by other teams during his rapid ascent through the Twins Minor League system. The right-hander pitched his first career shutout on Sunday against the Brewers, holding Milwaukee to just three hits while striking out eight batters and not issuing a single walk. It was the fourth straight quality start for Slowey, who is 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA over that span.

CLE: LHP Aaron Laffey (4-5, 3.24 ERA)
Constantly having a knack to find trouble but somehow being able to escape it this season, the left-handed Laffey finally got punished in his last start. Laffey's ability to get crucial double-play balls has been his way out of sticky situations, but he couldn't do it on Sunday. The Reds erupted for a five-run fifth inning to give the rookie his fifth loss of the season. In his only start against the Twins this season, Laffey was the benefactor of a 12-run outburst from the Indians' lineup, but wasn't too shabby himself, allowing just one run in six innings of work.

Tidbits
The Twins signed right-handed pitcher Carlos Gutierrez, the 27th overall pick in last month's First-Year Player Draft. Gutierrez, who was the closer for the University of Miami this season, will report to Class A Fort Myers. The Twins have now signed 14 of their top 15 picks in the Draft. ... Double-A New Britain had four players named to the Northern Division roster for this year's Eastern League All-Star Game. Infielders Luke Hughes and Steven Tolleson will join pitchers Ryan Mullins and Ben Julianel in the event. ... Brian Bass has allowed just one earned run in his last nine appearances.

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On the Internet
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Up next
• Sunday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 11-1, 2.26) at Twins (Glen Perkins, 4-2, 4.31), 1:10 p.m. CT
• Monday: Twins (Scott Baker, 5-2, 3.65) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 9-1, 3.12), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 7-4, 3.78) at Red Sox (Jon Lester, 7-3, 3.21), 6:05 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.