CLEVELAND -- The Twins have a pair of hitters in their lineup -- catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau -- who have merited the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Glen Perkins, Jared Burton and Casey Fien have formed a reliable back end of the bullpen. Josh Willingham ranks among the AL leaders in homers and RBIs.
So when manager Ron Gardenhire peers into his crystal ball and speculates where his club might need an offseason overhaul, he singles out the starting rotation.
"We know we need pitching," Gardenhire said. "We have to have starting pitching, and I'm not talking just a few decent arms. I'm talking quality starting pitching. We have to have some people give us a chance. Once you start getting your brains beat out, it kind of rolls over. You need those one or two guys that every time they step up, you have a chance to end a streak or start a new streak or keep a streak going."
The Twins carried a team ERA of 4.82 into Thursday's finale with the Tribe, tied with Cleveland for worst in the AL. The club is currently depending on a five-man rotation of Samuel Deduno, Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters that has combined for 28 career Major League victories. Gardenhire suspected that the pitching deficiency has put too large of a burden on the offense to perform.
"Ultimately, that's what happens," Gardenhire said. "You give in to the same pattern every day. What's frustrating is you go out and score two runs in the first inning and then you give up two runs in the first inning and you're like, 'Just give us that chance. Just let us breathe a little bit.'
"That's what's been hard. It's not like they're not trying, but that's the scuffle, that's been the tough part for the offense. When you get behind, you get out of what you're able to do. You make silly outs. You take fewer chances on the basepaths. All of that goes into scoring runs."
Gardenhire admitted that much of the roster could use some refining. He doesn't anticipate a quiet winter in Minnesota.
"There are so many things that need to get fixed," he said. "How close are we? I don't know. We'll see what we do this winter. We've got pitching problems. We're still trying to figure out a defense, where we're going to play people. There are things to get done. We won't really know how we'll stand next year until we get through the winter."