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Twins' lineup uncertain for Brewers opener

Twins' lineup uncertain for Brewers opener

MINNEAPOLIS -- Bumps and bruises can take their toll on a ballclub over the course of the season.

But for the Twins, those injuries and illnesses have been coming at a more rapid pace than they would like.

As the club prepared to head to Milwaukee for the start of a nine-game road trip, it did so with uncertainty over who might be ready to be in the lineup for Tuesday's series opener with the Brewers.

The Twins had to battle through a loss against the Astros on Sunday without first baseman Justin Morneau and second baseman Nick Punto, both of whom were unavailable.

Minnesota then lost Jason Kubel, who started the game in right field, after the third inning because of flu-like symptoms.

"We're not very healthy. We know that," catcher Mike Redmond said after Sunday's loss. "That's obviously a big concern. We've got to get guys out on the field. The one thing over the course of a season that can really take its toll on your team is to not have guys able to play. Hopefully, we can get some guys healthy. This is long road trip against some good teams. We're going to need everybody, for sure."

In regard to Morneau, Sunday marked the first time in nearly two years that the club had been without him in the starting lineup. The first baseman has been battling overall soreness, according to manager Ron Gardenhire, and the hope is that he will be feeling well enough on Tuesday to start.

Punto is also a question mark, as he's day to day with bruised right ribs.

But even with his bench a little short because of the the injuries, Gardenhire isn't expecting any changes on his roster before the start of the "Border Battle" between the Twins and Brewers.

"There's really not a lot of answers right now," Gardenhire said. "There's not people ready to come up here and help us, so we've got to let these guys get well."

But it's not just the position players who are ailing.

The Twins shuffled their rotation for the Brewers series, pushing back Kevin Slowey's start because of the cramping he experienced in his side during his start on Friday night.

Instead of pitching Thursday's series finale, Slowey has been moved to the back end of the rotation.

Though the Twins don't feel that the cramping is a very serious issue, they wanted to give Slowey some extra time, since they have an extra day with Monday's off-day.

"It's muscle-related," Gardenhire said. "They tell me it's not a pull or anything like that, but we'll give it a couple more days just to make sure."

Francisco Liriano is scheduled to pitch the first contest in Milwaukee, and Nick Blackburn will start the second, but right-hander Scott Baker has been moved up a day, and he'll take the hill for Thursday's finale.

The Twins are expecting to get one boost to their lineup for that final contest in Milwaukee, as Denard Span is scheduled to come off the disabled list. By that point, Gardenhire hopes, his regular lineup might all be healthy enough to play together. It's something that hasn't happened very often this season.

And for a club that has watched itself linger right around the .500 mark, or just below it, for the majority of the season, the hope is that a healthy lineup might spur a hot streak.

"It's not easy to write a lineup, change it, write a lineup, change it," Gardenhire said. "We just have to live with it. Hopefully, we'll get on the road where we've got everybody out there, and we can get them all playing at once.

"Injuries are a part of it, but we need to keep guys on the field. That's how we're going to win games."

Pitching matchup
MIN: LHP Francisco Liriano (2-8, 5.91 ERA)
On Wednesday against Pittsburgh, Liriano went six or more innings for the third straight game, but he came up short. He made two mistake pitches, allowing a pair of two-run homers en route to picking up his eighth loss. His last win came on May 9. He's 5-1 lifetime in Interleague Play, and all five wins were in 2006. He is 2-0 in two career starts against the Brewers.

MIL: RHP Jeff Suppan (5-4, 4.48 ERA)
Suppan didn't appear during the Brewers' three-game trip to Minnesota, a three-game Twins sweep in which Milwaukee was outscored, 23-8. He has mostly struggled in his five starts at home this season, going 1-3 with a 5.47 ERA at Miller Park with a .314 opponents' average. But he did hold the White Sox to two runs in 6 2/3 innings in his last home start, despite allowing nine hits. He will be working on regular rest for this start despite the team's off-day on Monday because the Brewers are using a four-man rotation until June 27.

Tidbits
Joe Mauer and Kubel both saw their hitting streaks snapped in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Astros. Mauer went 0-for-4, ending a 12-game hitting streak. Kubel struck out in his only plate appearance before exiting with the flu, snapping his career-high 11-game hit streak. ... Matt Guerrier tossed a scoreless inning on Sunday, extending his streak of consecutive scoreless appearances to 13 (9 1/3 innings). He has allowed just six hits during that time. ... Double-A New Britain outfielder Juan Portes was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Week for the week ending on June 19. He batted .421 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs in six games.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-N HD

On radio
• TRN 1500

Up next
• Wednesday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 6-2, 3.09) at Brewers (Braden Looper, 5-4, 5.21), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Twins (Scott Baker, 4-6, 5.22) at Brewers (Dave Bush, 3-4, 5.67), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Friday: Twins (Glen Perkins, 2-4, 5.10) at Cardinals (TBD), 7:15 p.m. CT

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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