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Twins-Tigers opener postponed by rain

Twins-Tigers opener postponed

DETROIT -- A line of storms stretching across the state of Michigan scratched the highly anticipated Monday opener of a four-game series between the Twins and Tigers at Comerica Park, setting up a four-games-in-three-days showdown that very well could decide the American League Central crown.

The postponed game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday, with first pitch set for 12:05 p.m. ET, and will be followed by the regularly scheduled game at 7:05. Tickets for Monday night's game will be honored for the afternoon contest on Tuesday.

The pitching matchups will remain the same for both teams: Nick Blackburn is set to start Tuesday's matinee against Tigers rookie phenom Rick Porcello. In the nightcap, Twins rookie Brian Duensing will take on Justin Verlander.

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The forecast for Tuesday calls for a chance of rain throughout the day, so there is a chance that one or both contests of the doubleheader could be affected. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said that if the afternoon game was postponed, Blackburn would start the evening contest.

"Game No. 1 will be Blackburn, whenever that is," Anderson said.

Having to open with a twin bill between the two clubs is just the latest twist in a series that already featured plenty of intrigue and anticipation. The Twins trail the Tigers by just two games with seven to play. After this four-game set, Minnesota finishes with a three-game series vs. the Royals in front of what promises to be a raucous and energized home crowd in what may, or may not, be the final games at the Metrodome. The Tigers finish with three at home vs. the White Sox.

"It's definitely not ideal," Michael Cuddyer said of having to wait a day to start the series. "But they've got to do it, too. It's not like just the Minnesota Twins are having to deal with the weather. It's unfortunate, but you can't control the rain."

For the Twins, the biggest concern at the moment is how the doubleheader might affect their catching situation.

Manager Ron Gardenhire had planned on starting Joe Mauer behind the plate in both Monday night and Tuesday night's contests, but he now might have to use Mauer as the DH in one of the games.

"The only thing that's tough about a split doubleheader, is I have one catcher that I'd like to start three games behind the plate [in this series]," Gardenhire said. "It does make a difference with that tomorrow. I don't think he can catch both games of a doubleheader. But I'll find out."

For the Tigers, the issue is how to juggle the rotation. Now that Porcello's start has been pushed back a day, Detroit has a decision to make with its rotation for his next turn, which would come Saturday in what will be a crucial weekend unless the club can take three of four and clinch in this series.

Porcello would've been on track to start Saturday against the White Sox, but he would now have to start that on short rest, an unlikely situation for a 20-year-old rookie whose innings workload has been closely watched all year. Manager Jim Leyland could choose to start Verlander on three days' rest instead, something he hasn't done this year but could do out of necessity.

The alternative would involve plucking someone out of the bullpen for the assignment, which could conceivably be suddenly resurgent long reliever Zach Miner.

Gardenhire didn't want to discuss how the rain might affect his club's pitching for its final regular season series with the Royals this weekend. The Twins were already undecided on a starter for Friday's contest. Gardenhire mentioned earlier in the day that Bobby Keppel is a candidate to get that start. Jeff Manship and Francisco Liriano are other possibilities.

And now the Twins will also have to decide whether they can bring back Blackburn on short rest for Saturday's contest.

But with so much on the line during this series against the Tigers, Gardenhire didn't even want to think past the first contest.

"I can't worry about the weekend," Gardenhire said. "I can't worry about Friday, Saturday, Sunday because I've got to get through four games with the Motown boys that are pretty important here. That starts with Game 1 here."

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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