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Gardy sees 'pen settling in after rocky start

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CLEVELAND -- The bullpen was one of the Twins' biggest strengths last season but has struggled so far in the early going this year.

Twins relievers combined to post a respectable 3.50 ERA last year, despite leading the Majors in innings pitched, but have an 8.78 ERA through four games entering Saturday's game against the Indians.

Left-hander Brian Duensing is the only member of the bullpen who hasn't given up a run, entering Saturday. Closer Glen Perkins, who was an All-Star last year, also uncharacteristically blew a save in the club's second game of the year, while Jared Burton and Caleb Thielbar have already served up home runs.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he believes the bullpen will be better moving forward, especially once they start to settle into their normal roles.

"Right now, it's just been hard to get them in their patterns and get them in when they're supposed to get in," Gardenhire said. "They've had their scuffles, and we've had to use people in different ways. I'm just hoping once we can settle things down, and get some guys to go seven, eight innings or whatever, that we can get these guys where we want to use them. But right now, it's been hit or miss."

Gardenhire also said it was easier to call on the bullpen earlier in games last season, because they were carrying 13 pitchers for most of the year. He said he's not ready to abandon a four-man bench, but liked having right-hander Ryan Pressly around last year as an extra reliever.

"It's different when you had that extra guy; it makes a huge difference," Gardenhire said. "Having Pressly out there last year, there were so many times he saved us. Like last night, I would've brought Pressly in. Left-right, I don't care. He just throws gas with a curveball. So I do notice that already. So we'll see how we adjust from it. But we went this way, and until we see that we don't like it. It's just early."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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