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Updated: October 8th, 2010 3:40pm
Notebook: Twins understand gravity of Game 3; Gardenhire may use Casilla

Notebook: Twins understand gravity of Game 3; Gardenhire may use Casilla

by Phil Mackey
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NEW YORK -- Upon arriving to Yankee Stadium on Friday, the Minnesota Twins -- trailing 2-0 to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series -- held a brief, 45-minute workout session.

The clubhouse vibe before and after the workout was fairly loose, but players sense the gravity of this weekend's situation.

"We know the significance of where we're at," Jim Thome said. "But also, I don't think anybody's down, anybody's depressed. It's about just winning a ballgame. Just go win."

One reporter asked manager Ron Gardenhire if, despite six division titles in nine years, the continuing difficulty with the Yankees ticks him off to some degree.

"That's a good way to put it, continuing difficulty," Gardenhire said with a slight grin. "It's not fun. We know what's out there. You have to understand that it's not the same group of players. It's different players, and we have had a lot of pieces change, but the results have been the same.

"We're in almost every ballgame. We have had leads in most of them. We haven't been able to finish them off. We have to figure out a way to finish these guys off.

"They are a great team. They find out ways to win. We have to figure that out."

Facing two tough lefties in Games 1 and 2, the Twins' lefty-heavy lineup was unable to generate enough offense to put the Yankees away, despite jumping out to leads in both games -- no surprise, considering Minnesota has taken a lead on New York in eight consecutive postseason match-ups, only to squander each one.

Their best chance to hold those leads this weekend is to rear back, roll up the sleeves and bust out the sticks.

The Twins actually got a rather literal head start on that task during their late-night plane ride east.

Word is a pinata was unveiled on the team plane -- in part to lighten the mood and also to signify that business isn't finished yet -- and Nick Punto busted it open.

Hey, whatever works. And if nothing else, at least there are Tootsie Rolls floating around somewhere.

Casilla to start Saturday?

When asked if he intended to shake up the lineup against right-hander Phil Hughes on Saturday, Gardenhire said, "Yeah, we'll talk about that."

"Maybe Alexi Casilla in the lineup against a right-hander. Who knows? I'm going to look at it tomorrow, see some numbers and see if we need to move somebody around or not. Absolutely."

If Casilla does start, it would likely be in place of shortstop J.J. Hardy or third baseman Danny Valencia.

None of them have ever faced Hughes.

Another Game 163?

This might be a little bit of a stretch, considering the opponent, the circumstances, and the fact that the Twins must win three consecutive games, but Saturday's do-or-die contest shares similarities to a Game 163 -- something the Twins are all too familiar with over the last few seasons.

"I think it helps from a standpoint where you know you're never going to give up," Michael Cuddyer said. "You've been there before."

Denard Span added, "I think it helps a little bit," regarding previous Game 163 experiences. "You've had your backs against the wall before. You know how it feels."

Manager Ron Gardenhire said, "Most of our guys are battle-tested in that respect. We have had it on the line.

"And not all of them. Not all of them were here (for Game 163), but there have been a lot of pressure situations. This is no different. We know if we lose we go home, so throw it out there and let it roll as Shane Mack used to say. That's what we have to do. Get after it. Win a ballgame and try to flip the pressure right back on them"

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd