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Updated: May 12th, 2011 4:28pm
Twins Daily: Ron Gardenhire fed up with pitchers giving free passes

Twins Daily: Ron Gardenhire fed up with pitchers giving free passes

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Owners of the worst record in baseball and countless other flaws, the Minnesota Twins will open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night when right-hander Carl Pavano takes the mound against left-hander Ricky Romero.

Numbers game

1: Teams that have issued more walks per nine innings (Chicago Cubs) than the Twins so far this season (3.94 BB/9), which is slightly bizarre considering the Twins issued the fewest free passes in 2010 by far (2.37 BB/9). In two games against the Tigers this week, Twins pitchers walked 17 batters, and needless to say, manager Ron Gardenhire isn't thrilled.

"There's cases out there when, come on, at the end you walk people there at the end of the ballgame," the manager said. "You don't want to put anybody on base. That's not being too fine, that's just not throwing it over. You've got to have courage too. Courage is throwing the ball over the plate, making them swing the bat, and hopefully we'll catch it.

"Sometimes you back away the shy way, and that's not good enough. Especially at the end of the ballgame. (Jose) Mijares comes in and walks a guy (Tuesday), gets a guy out, then walks a guy. That's his guy. You know what they've got on deck, you know what they've got coming in. He's got to go after that guy, he's got to make him swing the bat. He didn't. And we've had a few too many. It's not just Mijares, it's a lot of them. We walk too many people. You walk eight guys in a game, that's not good enough."

0: Qualified starting pitchers who have struck out fewer batters per nine innings than Pavano (3.64 K/9). Taking the pitch-to-contact strategy to an entirely new level, Pavano has struck out only 17 of the 187 batters he has faced, and he hasn't punched out any opposing hitters since April 24 against the Cleveland Indians. When hitters do make contact against Pavano (in fair territory), they are hitting .329 with a .526 slugging percentage.

3.23: Runs per game for the Twins offense -- the worst mark in baseball. The season is nearly 25% complete, and the Twins are on pace to be one of the most feeble run-scoring teams in the history of baseball. Injuries have clearly played a massive role, but outside of Jason Kubel (.355/.414/.532, 20 RBIs), Denard Span (.288/.357/.353) and Danny Valencia (18 RBIs), the Twins are getting almost zero production from the rest of the lineup.

Health report

• C Joe Mauer (weakness, soreness) took soft-toss swings for the first time in weeks on Tuesday at Target Field, and there have been rumblings that he may soon travel to Florida to ramp up rehab. Mauer last played on April 12.

• OF Delmon Young (ribs) is expected to come off the disabled list in time for Friday's game. He's been in Florida this week, facing live pitching and playing left field with no ill effects.

• OF Jason Repko (quad) flew to Florida on Wednesday to rehab at extended spring training.

• SS Trevor Plouffe (hamstring) was expected to work out at Target Field on Thursday. The team could be forced to place him on the disabled list Friday to make room for Young if the hamstring doesn't respond well. An MRI earlier in the week showed only a mild strain, and Plouffe was said to be feeling much better after Tuesday's workout.

• DH Jim Thome (oblique/back) was expected to play in an extended spring training game on Thursday.

On deck

Right-hander Pavano (2-4, 6.64) will attempt to break two streaks on Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) -- the team's five-game losing skid, and a stretch of four starts where Pavano has given up six runs or more three times.

In seven starts, Pavano has allowed at least six earned runs four times, including on opening day against the Blue Jays when he gave up eight runs (seven earned) on six hits (three of them homers) and two walks in four innings.

The current crop of Blue Jays hitters owns a .366/.392/.670 batting line with seven home runs and 20 extra-base hits in 121 plate appearances against Pavano.

His opponent, left-hander Romero (2-4, 4.04), was on the wrong-side of Justin Verlander's no-hitter last Saturday, allowing six earned runs in only 3 1/3 innings against the Tigers. Romero has five quality starts in seven outings this season.

Coming up

• Saturday: vs. Toronto, 3:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (2-4, 3.95) vs. LHP Jo-Jo Reyes (0-3, 5.00).
• Sunday: vs. Toronto, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (3-3, 3.32) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.71).
• Monday: @ Seattle, 9:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (2-4, 6.64) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (4-3, 3.36).

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