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Updated: September 2nd, 2012 8:59pm
Esmerling Vasquez 'gave us a chance to win,' but no sweep for Twins

Esmerling Vasquez 'gave us a chance to win,' but no sweep for Twins

by The Associated Press
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Esmerling Vasquez had minimum success as a reliever in the majors, but the Minnesota Twins believe he was miscast.

The Twins see Vasquez's future is in the rotation.

After 141 relief appearances over three seasons with Arizona, Vasquez made his first major league start Sunday, a 6-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

"Vasquez was good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He misfired a little there in the second inning and threw some balls to the backstop. He had one bad inning early but then he settled down OK. He gave us a chance to win. We'll take that and go forward.

"He pitched pretty good for his first start in the big leagues. I thought he handled himself well. He got us into the sixth, I think with a chance to win and that's what you're hoping for."

The skinny

Vasquez (0-1) allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Vasquez's contract was purchased Saturday from Triple-A Rochester, where he was 9-6 with a 2.78 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 39 walks in 100 1/3 innings. He made eight starts and 23 relief appearances.

"We had thought of him as a reliever, but they put him in the rotation there (Rochester) and he's been winging it," Gardenhire said. "He can throw in the upper 90s. We're excited. As a starter he probably settles in there a little different. The guy's got a great arm. For him, it's an opportunity. That's why you call them up here, to get a chance to look at them."

The Twins claimed Vasquez last September off the waiver wire.

"I feel OK for my first start," Vasquez said. "I don't really feel anything bad. I was struggling a little with my command in the second inning, but I felt OK. It's great being a starting pitcher."

Tony Abreu drove in three runs as Royals won to avoid a three-game sweep.

Abreu's three RBIs matched his career high, set on Sept. 18, 2007 while with Arizona at Colorado.

"He's got some clutch hits," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had some great at-bats, really was huge offensively for us. I would gather to say he's been more of a clutch hitter than a good hitter. I mean he's hitting .300, but the majority of his hits have either tied ball games or given us the lead. He's done a great job for us."

Abreu, appearing in his eighth game since his Aug. 8 promotion from Triple-A Omaha, delivered a two-run two-out second inning single, scoring Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Salvador Perez, who walked to lead off the inning, scored the first run of the inning on Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly.

Turning point

Abreu's two-out sixth inning single scored Hosmer, who had doubled, and broke a 4-4 tie. Abreu is hitting .344 with seven RBIs.

Health watch

• OF Josh Willingham, who leads the Twins with 33 home runs and 96 RBIs, was held out of the lineup with a tender hamstring.

• Twins RHP P.J. Walters, who missed 70 games with shoulder inflammation, will make his first start Wednesday at Chicago since June 13. He was 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in seven starts before the injury.

On deck

• Monday: at Chicago White Sox. Twins RHP Samuel Deduno (5-2, 3.72 earned average) vs. White Sox LHP Hector Santiago (2-1, 3.91).
• Tuesday: at Chicago White Sox. Twins LHP Scott Diamond (10-6, 3.21) vs. White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (5-3, 3.17).
• Wednesday: at Chicago White Sox. Twins RHP P.J. Walters (2-2, 5.40) vs. White Sox RHP Jake Peavy (9-10, 3.28).

© The Associated Press