"We have to wait and see where we're at with Santana," Gardenhire said. "He is, of course, sore and we have to be extra careful with him.
"I will never stick him out on a mound if he is not able to go out there and do the job and feel comfortable doing it. Health is the big issue there."
Santana threw a bullpen session on Thursday morning and reported feeling ready to go if needed for Game 4.
"I'm pretty sure that the one day is not going to make much of a difference right now," Santana said. "At the point that we are, it's about getting a win and advancing to the next round. I will do anything."
Bringing back Santana on short rest is nothing new for the Twins, who did exactly that during the 2004 ALDS vs. the Yankees. In that outing, Santana was able to pitch five innings, allowing just one run on five hits and leaving the game with a four-run lead. The Twins eventually lost that game to New York.
Santana feels like he has learned a lot since that experience.
"That was my first regular season throwing as a starter," Santana said. "Now, I know what it takes and I've had three full years as a starter. I've gained more experience and I've learned even more how to pitch."
Whether the Twins choose to start him early or he remains the possible Game 5 starter at the Metrodome, Santana seems to be fine with either choice.
"Right now, if that's going to be the call to go on Saturday, I'll be fine," Santana said. "If not, I'll be ready for Game 5."
Switch things up?
The Twins' offensive struggles have been a big part of the reason they have fallen behind, 2-0, in the ALDS with the A's.
Having gone 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position, Gardenhire knows that the offense needs to step up.
"We need to come up with some big hits -- that's the obvious," Gardenhire said. "It's tough to do when you're in playoff baseball facing tough pitching. But we have to find a way."
One change in the lineup that Gardenhire said he will not consider is using backup catcher Mike Redmond as the designated hitter.
Redmond had one of the top batting averages for the Twins during the regular season, hitting .341 with 23 RBIs in 179 at-bats. During the season, the Twins often used Redmond and catcher Joe Mauer in the same game with one as a designated hitter. But while Gardenhire was willing at times to take that risk during the season, the same cannot be said for the playoffs.
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"This is not the time of the year that you use both catchers in the lineup," Gardenhire said. "Redmond is a great role player, but we're very happy with Jason Tyner as our designated hitter and the speed he gives us."
Big games at Oakland in the playoffs are nothing new for the Twins.
Many of the players and coaches were reminded of a crucial Game 5 that the club played at the same ballpark during the 2002 ALDS. Facing a must-win situation with Brad Radke on the mound, the Twins were able to pull out a thrilling victory to advance to the ALCS. The hope is that with Radke back on the mound in another must-win situation, they'll get the same result.
"Were we expected to beat the A's again then? No," Radke said. "Were we ever expected to win? No. We are always the underdog. And I think that's the way we like it."
Loads of support:
There were a few extra members to the Twins' traveling party to Oakland. Shannon Stewart made his first road trip with the club since being sidelined in mid-July with another slight tear in the plantar fascia of his left foot. Stewart said he was excited to be with the club and that he's considering having arthroscopic surgery on the foot during the offseason.
Longtime Twins clubhouse attendant Wayne "Big Fella" Hattaway also made the trip. There had been questions as to whether Hattaway, 66, would be able to travel after having outpatient surgery to remove a cancerous growth last Thursday, but Hattaway said doctors gave him the go-ahead.
If Game 4 of the ALDS is played, it will start at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday in Oakland. Game 5 at the Metrodome has been tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. CT, but it could be moved to 6:30 p.m. CT if both the Tigers-Yankees and Mets-Dodgers series are finished.