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Updated: April 9th, 2014 6:37pm
Wetmore: 5 thoughts after Phil Hughes struggles, rally forces extras

Wetmore: 5 thoughts after Phil Hughes struggles, rally forces extras

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins lost in extra innings Wednesday, after they had rallied for two runs off closer Jim Johnson. That outcome may have been surprising, considering Phil Hughes allowed the first four batters of the game to reach base and score. Here are 5 thoughts from the game:

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1. Phil Hughes should be expected to pitch more than 5 innings per start. He pitched one game out of the bullpen last season for the Yankees and he recorded an out in that game. Take that appearance out, and he averaged just a shade more than 5 innings pitched in his 29 starts in 2013.

The Twins invested $27 million to bring him in this offseason, and one has to expect they're looking for him to increase that average and go deeper into games.

Does he see himself as a guy that should pitch more innings?

"Yeah, I have to. That's all there is to it. Last year was a disaster," Hughes said, hours after giving up four earned runs in the first inning. "I have to do a better job of being more efficient. I felt like I was able to do that after that first. There's no excuses in this game and no reason to fall into those habits."

2. What if this DH platoon actually could work? With Chris Colabello off to a hot start and Jason Kubel going 4-for-5 Wednesday, I allowed a thought to creep into my head.

Perhaps that's a workable platoon situation at DH.

I always am wary, however, of reacting to such small sample sizes. If Colabello is still competent at the plate in three weeks, and Kubel proves last year was an injury-driven aberration, the Twins might have a pair with which they could play matchups.

3. Carrying injured players can be problematic. With Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia unavailable, the Twins ran out of bench players Wednesday. With a four-man bench, Josmil Pinto pinch-hit for Pedro Florimon in the eighth inning and Eduardo Escobar took over the next half inning at shortstop.

With 5 startings pitchers and 9 starting positions players, there's room for 11 players on the bench. A 7-man bullpen means 4 position players. If two of those players are hurt, the team is hamstrung.

The roster move to DL Arcia and bring up Mastroianni from Triple-A Rochester at least will give the Twins an extra body for the bench. It also gives them a competent outfielder and another base stealing threat late in games as a pinch runner.

4. A rally off A's closer Jim Johnson allowed the Twins to tie the game in the ninth inning. He's  a former starter, and when he was with Baltimore last season, he used four pitches. Johnson threw primarily four-seam fastballs Wednesday, but he also threw four 2-seamers, a curveball and two changeups.

Fans in the Charm City got fed up with him but he was the team's best reliever. He'd occasionally cough up some leads late, like he did Wednesday, and the failures are more likely to stick in your mind than the converted saves, because a blown save diverts from expectations.

5. Glen Perkins, meanwhile, didn't appear in a save situation Wednesday, but the Twins are wise to recognize their best pitcher can pitch in any high-leverage situation.

It's preferable to have Perkins preserve a tie in the 10th inning, for example, than to reserve him for a save situation that may never materialize. If a lesser reliever coughed up a lead in extra innings to a dangerous part of an opponents' lineup while Perkins was available, that bullpen management might be worth second guessing.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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