Updated: May 15th, 2010 7:54am
What options did Gardenhire have against A-Rod?

What options did Gardenhire have against A-Rod?

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Based on how things lit up on Twitter, it's probably worth taking another look at Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's decision last night to walk the bases full and insert Matt Guerrier to face New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.

By now, you're aware how that turned out.

Knowing Rodriguez's track record against Guerrier -- 4-for-6, three home runs, a double and a walk before last night -- why did Gardenhire do it?

"We're always aware of numbers,'' Gardenhire said, per our pal Jim Souhan. "But Matty is our best right-handed reliever out there, our setup guy, who we had up in that situation, and sometimes you can't do anything about the numbers.

"Matty's got to come in there, the bases are loaded, you've got a righthander up there and he's got to make the pitch. He didn't make the pitch this time. We have all the confidence in the world in Matty. Numbers aren't everything.''

Maybe not, but they're a factor Gardenhire acknowledges almost daily when explaining his lineup and in-game decisions.

Were there better options?

Well, one consideration would be pitching to Mark Teixeira, a notorious slow starter who is hitting .209 this season and is 1-for-3 lifetime against Brian Duensing.

But let's say Gardenhire was dead-set (and it appeared he was) on walking the bases full to face one of the best hitters of this generation. (We'll save the arguments about whether A-Rod's whole career is a steroid-fueled freakshow for another time.)

Per baseball-reference.com, here are Rodriguez's numbers against the other available members of the Twins bullpen:

* vs. RHP Jesse Crain: 1-for-7, two walks. 
* vs. LHP Ron Mahay: 1-for-7, double, three strikeouts, four walks.
* vs. RHP Jon Rauch: 0-for-2, one strikeout.
* vs. LHP Brian Duensing: two plate appearances, one walk, one sacrifice fly.
* vs. LHP Jose Mijares: never faced.
* vs. RHP Alex Burnett: never faced.

Out of that group, Crain would be a logical matchup on paper, righty against righty. But it's tough to imagine Gardenhire going in a clutch situation to a guy who's gotten knocked around his past 10 appearances to the tune of a 6.55 ERA.

Gardenhire never has subscribed to the Phil Mackey-approved theory about using closers in high-leverage situations, so Rauch (right or wrong) probably wasn't in the conversation in the seventh inning. Ditto the possibility of leaving in Duensing or bringing on another lefty to face a power bat from the right side.

Long story longer, Gardenhire decided to go against the history of the matchup, and he got burned. It will be interesting to see his approach if the same situation arises again this weekend -- or in October.

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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