CHICAGO -- Ron Gardenhire won't talk about next year's starting double-play combo, but the Twins manager is excited about the talent the organization is assembling up the middle.
The Twins have four middle infielders who will split playing time the rest of the season: veterans Jamey Carroll (38 years old) and Alexi Casilla (28), as well as youngsters Eduardo Escobar (23) and Pedro Florimon (25).
Toss in 25-year-old Brian Dozier, who played in 84 games with the Twins this season but was not recalled this month, and Gardenhire is pleased with his in-house options for next year.
"The goal here is to get lots of talented people and find the best couple to start out there," Gardenhire said. "Our stock is rising as far as infielders go, which is good. We have some pretty good looking players for the middle."
During Gardenhire's first three years as manager -- which included three American League Central titles from 2002-04 -- the Twins started shortstop Cristian Guzman and second baseman Luis Rivas. During Minnesota's most recent division titles in 2009 and 2010, it went with different combinations: Casilla (second) and Orlando Cabrera (shortstop) and Orlando Hudson (second) and J.J. Hardy (shortstop), respectively.
The Twins have made it a priority the past few years to improve their talent level in the middle infield, and Gardenhire likes the direction the organization is heading.
"The big thing here is getting back to the point where you bring players to the Major Leagues because they've earned it, not because this is all you have," Gardenhire said. "When we've had that going, we just call people up and they step right in and you don't miss a beat. We're trying to get back to it in this organization and do it a lot quicker than people talk about.
"We've made some pretty good Drafts, we have some people coming up in A ball, Double-A that are on the move with pretty good numbers that are going to be pushing people, which is real good."