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Updated: July 18th, 2010 11:08pm
State of the Twins, Week 15: Statuses of Blackburn, Slowey up in the air

State of the Twins, Week 15: Statuses of Blackburn, Slowey up in the air

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time in nearly a month, the Minnesota Twins have momentum on their side after Sunday's come-from-behind, 7-6 win gave them a third victory in as many days over the division-leading Chicago White Sox.

"I don't think anyone in this clubhouse lost their confidence," shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "Everyone believes in one another, and that was a lot of fun today."

Concerns remain, though -- namely, at multiple spots in the starting rotation.

Here's how things stand through 15 weeks:

WHO'S HOT
LF Delmon Young: The All-Streak break didn't slow down Young, who blasted a two-run homer and delivered the single that scored Michael Cuddyer with the winning run on Sunday. He's hitting .385 (20-for-52) in July with six doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs.

SS J.J. Hardy and 2B Orlando Hudson: The pair showed what they can do defensively throughout the Chicago series. Now that both appear recovered from their wrist injuries, their offense is coming around, too. Hardy was 7-for-15 (.467) in the Chicago series and is hitting .361 (13-for-36) with three doubles and three RBIs since returning from the disabled list on July 3. Hudson's fifth-inning single on Sunday extended his hitting streak to seven games, in which he's 11-for-29 (.379) with .455 on-base percentage.

SP Carl Pavano: Is it any wonder half the locker room now seems to be sporting moustaches? Pavano turned in a complete-game gem on Saturday to beat the White Sox and now is 6-0 with a 2.74 earned-run average in his past nine starts. His four complete games tie for fourth-most in the majors behind aces Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez.

RHP Jesse Crain: After falling apart in the season's first six weeks, Crain has allowed no earned runs in 21 of his past 22 appearances, compiling a 0.82 ERA. Friday's save in relief of wild Jon Rauch was Crain's first since 2006.

WHO'S NOT
RHPs Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey: Either could be replaced in the rotation at any moment. Blackburn was OK on Sunday until the sixth inning, when he gave up three consecutive hits, lost the lead and was done after allowing five runs on nine hits over five-plus innings. That actually lowered his earned-run average to 10.73 over his past six starts. Slowey isn't far behind after going three-plus in Thursday's loss, allowing five earned runs and a homer on 75 pitches. It was the fifth time in six starts he's given up at least five runs -- a stretch in which he's compiled a 9.11 ERA. If RHP Scott Baker (elbow tendinitis) gets through his start on Monday without complications, there's a decent chance Brian Duensing will enter the rotation as soon as this week.

NUMBERS GAME
The Twins scored 24 runs in the four-game series against Chicago, hitting .372 (16-for-43) with runners in scoring position.

TRADE FODDER
The Twins continue to examine options for starting pitching help, of which Chicago Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly is a logical option.

HOW THEY STAND
1. Chicago (50-41)
2. Detroit (48-42) 1½ GB
3. Twins (49-43) 1½ GB
4. Kansas City (39-52) 11 GB
5. Cleveland (38-54) 12½ GB

HEALTH REPORT
• 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, retroactive to July 8. He continued to suffer from symptoms when he last spoke with reporters on Thursday afternoon; he's expected to be reexamined on Monday and could return as soon as Friday.
• RP Clay Condrey (elbow) is expected to have surgery to address what the Twins have described as a right forearm flexor muscle strain.
• IF Matt Tolbert (finger) remains sore and wasn't ready to come off the disabled list when he was eligible last week.
• IF Alexi Casilla (elbow) has begun to a minor-league rehab assignment and moved up to Class-AA New Britain on Thursday.
• RP Joe Nathan (elbow) was slated to throw a ball on Saturday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in late March. It was the start of a five-month program he hopes will have him on a mound by December; he tweeted late Saturday he'll play catch on Monday.

THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday: vs. Cleveland, 7:10 p.m. Probable pitchers -- Baker (7-8, 4.87 ERA) vs. LHP Aaron Laffey (1-3, 5.12).
Tuesday: vs. Cleveland, 7:10 p.m. Slowey (8-5, 4.95) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (3-8, 5.31).
Wednesday: vs. Cleveland, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (7-7, 3.76) vs. RHP Jake Westbrook (6-5, 4.67).
Thursday: at Baltimore, 6:05 p.m. Pavano vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (3-10, 4.58).
Friday: at Baltimore, 6:05 p.m. Blackburn (7-7, 6.53) vs. LHP Brian Matusz (3-10, 5.21).
Saturday: at Baltimore, 6:05 p.m. Baker vs. RHP Chris Tillman (1-3, 5.64).
Sunday: at Baltimore, 12:35 p.m. Slowey vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (3-2, 4.38).

All games on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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