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Updated: July 18th, 2011 1:15am
Twins looking for middle-relief help as trade deadline approaches

Twins looking for middle-relief help as trade deadline approaches

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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The next week will determine plenty about the Minnesota Twins' chances for capturing another American League Central Division title.

Considering they've cut the deficit from 16½ games to five since early June, though, it's no surprise the Twins' front office is approaching the non-waiver trade deadline like buyers.

"We think we're right in the middle of this thing, and I think we're looking to see if we can't do some things to help this ballclub," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said in an appearance on 1500 ESPN's "Sunday Morning SportsTalk" show.

"At the same time, you always keep an eye open to see if something makes sense."

The Twins (44-49) open a four-game series with a doubleheader on Monday against front-running Cleveland (49-44), then play four against Detroit (50-45), which pulled back within percentage points of the division lead with a win and an Indians loss on Sunday.

That the Twins have continued to carve into the deficit is remarkable not only because of ongoing injury issues, but because their bullpen has faltered badly, with Matt Capps alone blowing seven saves before ceding the closer's role to Joe Nathan after Friday's loss.

Asked if bullpen help is the target, Antony said, "Yes. ... I'm not sure we're looking for a closer. I think we're fine there. I think we're looking for maybe a middle guy and some guys to help bridge the gap and come in in that sixth, seventh inning.

"Fortunately, the starters have been giving us six, seven innings every time out and really helping alleviate the situation. But I definitely think there's some room for improvement in the middle there."

On Sunday, the Twins recalled left-hander Chuck James, who pitched five scoreless innings in a stint with the team earlier this season and has a 2.25 earned-run average in 40 innings with Triple-A Rochester. Others could be summoned soon, depending how the Twins weather a stretch of eight games in seven days at hot and humid Target Field.

"There are some guys we can go get," Antony said, "but I think when you're looking at trying to really, really upgrade over what you have, I think we may have to look outside the organization for that."

The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31.

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
In this story: Matt Capps, Joe Nathan
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