Notes: Rotation depth a new issue

Notes: Rotation depth a new issue

MINNEAPOLIS -- Starting pitching hasn't been much of a concern for the Twins over the past two months.

But oh, how quickly things can change.

With the news on Tuesday night that Francisco Liriano would be scratched from his Wednesday start due to soreness in his left forearm, the problems have continued to mount for the Twins' starting staff.

Liriano's soreness comes after shoulder troubles for Brad Radke limited him in his last start. That forced Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to admit that the team is monitoring Radke's health and going start-by-start with the veteran pitcher.

Combine those troubles with the fact that the No. 5 spot continues to be a merry-go-round for the club, as Scott Baker was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester again on Tuesday night following his start, and the few cracks in the rotation begin to show.

Before, depth seemed to be a luxury for the Twins. Now, it's a bit of a concern. Though the Twins never really considered Kyle Lohse for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, trading Lohse on Monday removed one source of depth. After Baker's recent struggles, the options for that fifth spot seem to be limited.

Boof Bonser was called up to fill in for Liriano on Wednesday, but if the club has to go any further into its depth than Bonser, it would appear that maybe top prospect Matt Garza would be next on the line.

Still, there is hope that the next week will prove that some of the concerns are unfounded.

Liriano seemed convinced on Wednesday morning that he will be able to start on either Sunday or Monday, depending on when the Twins decide to use him. Radke said he will make his start on Thursday and doesn't expect his shoulder to be a problem.

And with Bonser getting another chance on Wednesday to show his improvement, the Twins could end up once again with a rotation filled with quality starters.

Third-base coach Scott Ullger, who has filled in for Gardenhire during his recent bout with the flu, isn't concerned.

"The other guys just have to pick it up, that's all," Ullger said.

Rookies abound: Veteran presence has often been cited as one of the keys to making a run at the postseason.

If that's the case, the Twins never got that message.

In the midst of the Wild Card race, as the club sits two games back of the Red Sox, Yankees and White Sox heading into Wednesday's contest with the Rangers, the Twins continue to rely on their youth for their run. Currently, the Twins have five rookies on their 25-man roster.

Mike Redmond has been through playoff chases before in his eight-year Major League career, and instead of looking at it as a hindrance, he sees it as a positive.

"I think it's fun to have young guys that are sometimes oblivious to the hype," Redmond said. "That's a benefit, too."

Playing on the Marlins squad that won the World Series in 2003, Redmond said that only one player on that team had any experience in the playoffs. So to say that it's a necessity isn't necessarily true.

"What has made this team play so well is all of our younger guys have done their jobs and contributed," Redmond said. "I think as we get farther into this thing you never know what's going to happen, but I think the great thing is we have enough guys to have fun and stay loose. I think it's nice to have veteran guys, but I don't think you have to say it's mandatory."

Bullpen on fire: Starting pitching may still be a question for the Twins, but the bullpen has been its security blanket of late.

After Baker allowed eight runs in the fourth inning of Tuesday night's game, the bullpen combined to toss 5 2/3 innings with only one run scoring during the span.

It wasn't much of a surprise for a bullpen that has an American League-best 3.24 ERA this season, trailing only the Mets (3.21) for the Major League low.

Twins tidbits: Gardenhire was back with the club on Wednesday but left the ballpark before the game started with more stomach flu symptoms. He was taken to a local hospital to receive more fluids and will not fly to Kansas City with the team. It was uncertain when Gardenhire will make the trip. ... Streamers hung on Matt Guerrier's locker on Wednesday, but it wasn't to mark his return to the club. Guerrier is celebrating his 28th birthday. ... The deadline to purchase 2006 season tickets and establish a 2006 priority number for new ballpark tickets is Aug. 13. Purchasing season tickets by that date will also provide fans with priority for 2006 postseason tickets, as well.

Down on the farm: Garrett Jones drove in the only run for Triple-A Rochester in the club's 5-1 loss at Durham on Tuesday night. Starter Jason Miller allowed four runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings. ... Adam Harben issued five walks and allowed two earned runs over seven innings while picking up his seventh loss of the season as Double-A New Britain was defeated by Binghamton, 5-1. Doug Deeds recorded the lone RBI for the Rock Cats as he went 1-for-3 at the plate. ... Dave Gassner allowed three runs on six hits over five innings in Class A Fort Myers' 5-2 loss to Dunedin.

Coming up: The Twins head off for a seven-game road trip that starts in Kansas City on Thursday night. Right-hander Brad Radke (9-8, 4.91 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (1-0, 3.00 ERA) of the Royals in the 7:10 p.m. CT start.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.