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Baker available out of bullpen

Baker available out of bullpen

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CHICAGO -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows that there is no room for mistakes when a team is playing game No. 163 of the regular season.

That's why he's making sure not to let any signs of trouble be ignored in Tuesday night's one-game tiebreaker with the White Sox, which will decide the American League Central champion.

Rookie starter Nick Blackburn will likely be kept on a much tighter leash than normal on Tuesday night. Gardenhire said that every one of his bullpen arms will be available and he's not going to hesitate to go to them if necessary.

"I think both sides will be [monitoring it closely]," Gardenhire said. "You don't want to let it get out of hand. I mean, sometimes you are going to try to let a guy pitch through something and something wacky happens. You can't control it. But for the most part, we are going to try to do the best we can to keep it close and see if we can hold on."

There will even be an extra arm available out of the bullpen in the later innings if needed -- right-handed starter Scott Baker. Rather than throw his usual side session in preparation for a potential postseason start later this week, Baker will wait and possibly throw in the game instead.

One arm that Gardenhire adamantly said would not be used is left-hander Francisco Liriano. He pitched on Friday against the Royals, and Gardenhire did not want to bring him back on three days' rest -- which is why he eliminated the southpaw from consideration for this game.

"You are talking about a surgically repaired arm and I will not mess with that young man's future or this organization's future by taking any chances with him," Gardenhire said. "Putting him in the bullpen is the same as trying to get him ready to start tonight. I couldn't live with it if he went out and hurt himself tonight. He's done just fine, but he'll be ready to pitch in the playoffs against Tampa Bay if we can get through this thing."

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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