Inside Pitch- Radke Getting Some Support

In this edition of Inside Pitch, Brad Radke is finally getting some run support, the Twins win their home opener, Ruben Sierra may be back soon, Lew Ford is still battling back from injury, and much more.

In a season Brad Radke has suggested might be his last, he already has received 20 runs of support in two starts, helping him to the only two victories owned by a Twins pitcher this year.

This for a right-hander who spent his first 11 seasons gasping for run support.

Last season he finished 12th from the bottom of the American League in support (4.57 runs per nine innings pitched), including leaving the mound in four of his last five starts in 2005 with exactly zero runs.P> "It's a new year," he said. "You try not to think about that stuff. You just try to turn the page and move on."

Closer Joe Nathan razzed Radke about it after the game: "Two in a row, dude! What's going on?"

Radke has no explanation for the sudden outburst.

One theory is that it has something to do with suggesting he'll retire at the end of this season.

"Shoot, I should have started that four years ago," he said.

Radke's seven innings Tuesday -- in which he retired 15 of the final 17 he faced after giving up a leadoff homer to Bobby Crosby in the third inning -- was the longest outing by a Twins pitcher in seven games so far.

The run support might not be the only trend he's changing in what might be his final year.

Radke, who historically has struggled in the first inning, had a 1-2-3 first on Tuesday night (albeit, followed by a three-run second). How rare is that? It was his first perfect first inning in eight starts, dating to Aug. 16. And he had only six in 31 starts last year.

REPLAY: The Twins set a dubious club record for poor starting pitching even as they came from behind to beat Oakland 7-6 in their home opener Tuesday with a six-run third inning. The victory was just the second for the Twins in seven games this season -- in large part because of the mark they set: going seven games into the season without a quality start.

After checking with the Elias Sports Bureau, the Twins said it's the first time the team has gone this deep into a season without one since the franchise moved from Washington in 1961. The last time they went six deep into the season, 2000, they finished with the worst record in the league.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • OF Lew Ford, who left Friday's game in Cleveland with a strained hamstring, still was not available Tuesday night, but manager Ron Gardenhire said Ford could be ready to play as early as Wednesday, based on the trainers' report.

  • OF Ruben Sierra, the 40-year-old switch hitter the Twins signed to be their top pinch hitter this year, is expected to join the team April 18 for the start of a home series against the Angels. Sierra, who remained in Florida for extended spring training because of a pulled quadriceps, has progressed well in recent days, both running the bases and playing in the field. He was to play in an intrasquad game Tuesday and then play through the weekend in official games for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle.

  • Seven games into the season, the Twins finally got their first save opportunity of the year Tuesday night, and all-star RHP Joe Nathan converted it with a hitless ninth inning (which included one walk). The Twins had not gone that far into a season without a save chance since 1967.

  • After talking with ace LHP Johan Santana on Tuesday, manager Ron Gardenhire said he'll stay the course with his starting rotation instead of using this week's day off to move Santana up a day. He and pitching coach Rick Anderson had considered swapping Santana with RHP Scott Baker, the fifth starter, this weekend to keep Santana on his every-fifth-day schedule.

  • Bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek is scheduled to undergo hernia surgery Wednesday and likely miss at least two games. Minor league field coordinator Joel Lepel is to join the team to fill in for Stelmaszek.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Walks allowed in season-opening start by RHP Carlos Silva, who walked nine all of last season and didn't surrender an unintentional walk until late May.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "April might determine our whole season." -- CF Torii Hunter on an 18-game opening stretch of games this season that includes, in order, Toronto, Cleveland, Oakland, the Yankees, the Angels and the White Sox.

    ROSTER REPORT:

    MEDICAL WATCH:

  • OF/PH Ruben Sierra opened the season rehabbing his quadriceps in Florida. He could return this week.

  • RHP Juan Rincon's sore right elbow bears watching in the early going after he was sidelined by the irritation much of spring training.

  • 2B Luis Castillo, who has a balky hip and hamstrings, has expressed concern over the Metrodome's artificial surface.
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