Twins getting inconsistent starts out of the chute

Twins getting inconsistent starts out of the chute

DETROIT -- Despite their historically slow start offensively, the Twins aren't worried about their offense in the long run, considering they finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored last year. More concerning has been the pitching, as Minnesota starters combined to post an 11.37 ERA in 12 2/3 innings in the three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson, who was plagued by inconsistency in his first full season in the Majors last year, lasted just 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits and five walks in Thursday's 7-1 loss at Comerica Park after a rain delay that lasted more than three hours.

It was reminiscent of Gibson's issues with his consistency last year, as he had a 1.42 ERA in his 13 wins and an 11.04 ERA in his 12 losses last season.

"With the walks, I didn't give myself a chance," Gibson said. "They started hitting bloops and it just compounded the problem. They'd find a hole and it would lead to a few runs."

It came after Ricky Nolasco lasted just three-plus innings in Wednesday's 11-0 loss, and Nolasco's status is up in the air after undergoing an MRI on his elbow in Minnesota on Thursday. The Twins are expected to have the results by Friday, as Nolasco was slated to start the home opener on Monday, but it could be in jeopardy.

It's the latest setback to a rotation that will be without right-hander Ervin Santana until early July after getting an 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug. Santana, who signed the biggest free-agent contract in franchise history this offseason with a four-year deal worth $55 million, was slated to be the club's No. 2 starter and was expected to eat up innings, as he averaged 199 frames over the last seven seasons.

The relievers have also been pressed into early action, given the short outings from Nolasco and Gibson. Veterans such as Tim Stauffer and Blaine Boyer have struggled in the early going, but holdovers such as Casey Fien, Brian Duensing and closer Glen Perkins each tossed a scoreless inning on Thursday.

The Twins were hoping to avoid overworking their bullpen like they've done in recent years, but they'll need to get more out of their starters going forward.

"You don't want to get into a trend where you're going so consistently early," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Obviously the key if you're going to be competitive and win games, you need your starting pitchers to give you innings."

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.