Twins Inside Pitch: Additions Not Paying Off

Rondell White is batting .091 in 2006.

In this edition of Inside Pitch, Luis Castillo, Rondell White, and Tony Batista start the season in a funk, Johan Santana loses his first two starts to open the season for the first time since 2000, and Jason Kubel may be in Rochester very soon. All that and more.

So much for fixing the lowest-scoring lineup in the American League last year.

The Twins pumped veteran hitters into the lineup with a series of moves over the winter, but if the early going is any indication, they have done very little to close the ground between themselves and the teams that finished ahead of them in the AL Central last year -- Chicago and Cleveland.

The Twins don't get their first look at the World Series champion White Sox for more than a week, but they got more than they wanted to see from the Indians in a frustrating weekend sweep that included 17 straight scoreless innings.

"We thought we were ready leaving spring training," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Twins lost 3-2 on Sunday -- the score only that close after Minnesota scored once in the seventh and once with two out in the ninth. "We were playing very good and swinging the bat good, and everybody thought they were where they needed to be."

Since then, they've been left to think again.

After losing two of three at Toronto to open the season, the Twins hit just .177 over the weekend at Cleveland, managing a measly four hits Sunday after getting shut out Saturday.

And those veteran additions to the lineup?

Luis Castillo (.250 so far this season), Rondell White (.091) and Tony Batista (.125) went a combined 2-for-23 (.087) in the Cleveland series -- including 0-for-10 Sunday.

REPLAY: Johan Santana survived a rocky first inning but needed 36 pitches to escape a bases-loaded jam unscathed, then couldn't get out of the sixth inning as his pitch count expired. He trailed 1-0 with two runners on base at the time, and after both scored against reliever Juan Rincon, the Twins were dug deep enough into a hole -- 3-0 -- they couldn't dig out against Jake Westbrook. The Indians held on for 3-2 win.

Westbrook went 7 1/3 innings, and the Twins produced just four hits while falling to 1-5. Minnesota gets its first day off of the season Monday in anticipation of the home opener Tuesday against Oakland.

NOTES:

  • LHP Johan Santana's losses in his first two starts this season make him 0-2 for the first time since his rookie year in 2000. --When LHP Johan Santana failed to pitch out of the sixth inning Sunday, it meant the Twins' vaunted starting rotation had failed to produce even one quality start in the team's first six games of the year -- once through the rotation plus Santana's second start. The starters in those six games are 1-5 with a 7.67 ERA -- averaging just 5 1/3 innings per start while allowing 7.8 hits and 1.7 walks per start.

  • DH Rondell White, the veteran cleanup hitter the Twins signed over the winter to help a young and poor-producing lineup, is just 2-for-22 (.091) with eight strikeouts. He has just two RBIs.

  • OF Lew Ford, who left Friday's game as a precaution over a strained left hamstring, looked good enough over the weekend that the team expects him to be ready to play again by Tuesday night's home opener against Oakland.

  • OF/PH Ruben Sierra, who stayed back in Florida when the team broke camp to continue his rehabilitation from a quadriceps pull during extended spring training, played six innings in right field Saturday -- the first time he has been back in the outfield since the injury in mid March. That was considered the final hurdle before the team would consider adding him to the roster. Manager Ron Gardenhire suggested that could happen by the time the Twins see Sierra's old team, the New York Yankees, next weekend at the Metrodome. Barring injuries, a Sierra move in could mean a move out for rookie OF Jason Kubel (in part to get Kubel everyday action at Triple-A and to get OF Michael Cuddyer more playing time with the parent club).
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