"Actually, considering where we were, it's been a pretty amazing run to get as close to .500 as we are right now," manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday before the Twins' wrapped up the first half of the season with a 6-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
On June 1, the Twins were 20 games under .500 and 16-1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central. Since then, they're 24-11 and enter the break 6-1/2 games behind first-place Detroit.
Under normal circumstances, that would be a profound disappointment for a club with a $113 million payroll and coming off two straight division titles. But 16 trips to the disabled list -- including long stints by Opening Day starters Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Denard Span and Delmon Young -- threw the Twins into an early tailspin.
Mauer, the 2009 AL MVP, is back and batting third. Nishioka is back at short, giving Gardenhire a regular middle infield. And the bullpen, once in shambles, has stability at the end with Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps.
"So some good things have happened during this run, and now it's about getting our other players healthy and continuing the process in the second half," Gardenhire said.
Still, they have work to do. To win 88 games this season, a good guess on a bare minimum to win any major league division, the Twins will have to go 47-26 the rest of the way. That's no small feat. In short, they have to win series, as they've done in each of their last four.
Then they have to hope neither the Tigers nor Indians puts together a run that makes them uncatchable. Minnesota needs this one to go down to the wire. The schedule could help them: Their first three series out of the break are against Central rivals Kansas City, Cleveland and Detroit.
"We'll have our opportunities to get closer, that's for sure," Gardenhire said. "It's happened a lot; there's been a lot of teams there at the end. And that's what we're hoping for."
--LF Delmon Young was activated from the disabled list after Sunday's game after completing a nine-day rehab assignment at Class AAA Rochester. He hasn't played with the big-league club since jamming his right ankle July 24 at Milwaukee, when he started his second stint in the DL this season.
Also, INF Trevor Plouffe will be recalled for Thursday's game against Kansas City, the Twins announced. To make room, the team optioned OF Rene Tosoni and C Rene Rivera back to Rochester.
--CF Denard Span, out with a concussion since June 7, left a day early for the All-Star break and will be examined by doctors Tuesday or Wednesday. "Hopefully to be cleared," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
--DH Jim Thome was given the day off Sunday to rest a sprained big toe on his left foot, though he was available to pinch-hit. In the Twins' loss Saturday to LHP Mark Buehrle and the White Sox, Thome went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
"It's kind of causing a few issues -- a little bit of a sore back and everything else from it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was fighting it pretty good (Saturday). He wasn't able to push off his back foot, so it's not working out too awful well."
--RHP Anthony Swarzak scattered five hits over six innings in Sunday's 6-3 victory at Chicago in a spot start. In his last three starts, he's 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA. Swarzak was pitching in place of RHP Scott Baker, who was back in the Twin Cities rehabbing a flexor strain.
--RF/1B Michael Cuddyer, the Twins' lone representative in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Phoenix, has hit safely in his last 10 games (.417, 15-for-36) and 39 of his last 50 (.341, 63-for-185).
BY THE NUMBERS: 31-8 -- The Twins' record against the Chicago White Sox since May 2009. They're 10-1 against Chicago this season after taking three of four at U.S. Cellular Field over the weekend.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wouldn't call it dominance. There have been a lot of one-run, two-run ballgames in there, and a lot of anything-can-happen at the end of games. With that lineup, they can throw together a touchdown in a heartbeat, so you set there nervous as all can be because they throw so many hitters up." -- Manager Ron Gardenhire on his team's 31-8 record against the White Sox since May 2009.