Gardenhire being cautious with bullpen

Gardenhire being cautious with bullpen

MINNEAPOLIS -- With a day-night doubleheader against the Royals on Saturday at Target Field, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire stressed how important it was to try to keep his relievers fresh heading into the twin bill.

Gardenhire said all seven of his relievers are ready for action and that starter Nick Blackburn will also be available out of the bullpen.

The Twins used four relievers in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Royals -- Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop and Alex Burnett -- but none threw more than 25 pitches.

"We were very careful," Gardenhire said. "We wanted Swarzy to keep pitching, but if he threw another inning, he couldn't be able to pitch today. At least we have all our guys available today and Blackburn in the bullpen. So we just have to protect these guys. They've done so well, but it won't last. We're almost to the All-Star break and I think they have more innings than any bullpen."

Twins relievers actually rank third in innings pitched behind the Rockies and Royals, entering the doubleheader. But Gardenhire said he's hopeful starters Scott Diamond and Cole De Vries can eat up innings to help the bullpen.

"It just basically gets down to how everything unfolds over the course of the game," Gardenhire said. "If your starter struggles and you have to go to the 'pen, it makes everything a little bit more interesting."