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Twins option Crain in surprise move

Twins option Crain in surprise move

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins made an unexpected move Tuesday when they optioned struggling reliever Jesse Crain to Triple-A Rochester to make roster room for starter Glen Perkins, who was activated from the disabled list.

Crain was 2-3 with an 8.15 ERA in 23 appearances (17 2/3 innings) for the Twins this season. The struggles for Crain seemed to peak Sunday, when he gave up the game-winning single to Ryan Theriot in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs. Crain came in for the ninth inning with the game tied, but he allowed three hits and walked one while taking the loss.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday's outing was another example of the club's recent issue -- finding situations in which to use Crain. The hope is that Crain can figure out what has been causing his troubles while pitching more frequently in Rochester.

"All of the other [bullpen] guys are going out there throwing every day, and it's hard when you are in all of these close games to run him out there," Gardenhire said. "Finally, we got in a situation where he had to pitch, and it didn't work out again. The confidence is not there for him right now. We've got to get him going and see if he can help our baseball team. "

Crain, who is in the third year of a $3.25 million contract, has not pitched in the Minors since 2004, when he began the season at Rochester before being called up Aug. 1. But Crain still has options, allowing him to be sent to Rochester without having to clear waivers.

"It's hard because he's been around here for a pretty good while, doing a lot of good things and giving us a lot of good innings," Gardenhire said. "It was a tough one sending Jesse out, but he needs it right now. He can help us down the road if he can go find everything and find the zone and get his pitches back together."

Gardenhire said that Crain took the news "like anyone would expect."

"He was kind of a little numb at first," Gardenhire said. "He wanted to know exactly what the plan was here, and the plan is for him to go down and get innings."

Crain underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in May 2007 to repair a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff. He returned for the start of the '08 season and went 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 62 2/3 innings over 66 appearances.

Heading into the 2009 season, Crain was expected to be one of the club's primary setup options. He had some early success -- posting a 1.59 ERA over his first six appearances -- before suffering a setback April 17. He spent 15 days on the disabled list thereafter with inflammation in his right shoulder.

Since returning from the injury, Crain has posted an 8.49 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. He's struck out seven and walked seven over that span, and opponents have been hitting .365 against him.

The coaching staff feels that Crain's struggles have been due in part to the pitcher overthrowing. They've worked on fixing his mechanics in bullpen sessions, but they feel the only way for Crain to get those things to work is by getting consistent time on the mound.

"He's going to get innings down there, and he's going to get consistent innings in," Gardenhire said. "That's what he needs right now. He needs to find his sinker, and he needs to find his breaking ball and get them all going at the same time and get some confidence. Right now, he doesn't have much. This could be a good thing for him if he uses it right."

The move to option Crain allowed Perkins to be activated from the disabled list in time for his start against the Pirates. Perkins went on the DL on May 19 with inflammation in his left elbow.

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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