The Yankees open a 4-game series tonight with the Minnesota Twins in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". It's the first time the Yankees have faced the Twins, who have changed quite a bit since the last time the two teams met, this season.
Johan Santana is across the Hudson at Shea, Francisco Liriano is working his way back from Tommy John surgery in the minors, and the heart and soul of the team, Torii Hunter, is in Anaheim/LA. But the Twins are known for developing good players and that continues this year.
The Twins don't have scoring power, but their starting pitching and bullpen have helped them to a 28-25 record, 2 games behind the even more surprising Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The starting rotation has one veteran, Livan Hernandez, and a bunch of kids.
El Duque's kid brother started out like a house afire, going 6-2, 3.88, but he's been pounded in his last 2 starts, both no decisions, against the Royals and Rangers.
Rookie right-hander Nick Blackburn tops the team in ERA, 3.39, while posting a 4-3 record. He's walked just 11 hitters in 71.2 innings.
Glen Perkins, tonight's starter, was worked in as a reliever for his first 23 big league appearances over the last 2 years, but he's back as a full-time starter now. Perkins was called up due to injuries and has been the goods thus far, going 2-1, 2.77 with 16 strikeouts and 4 walks in 26 innings.
Kevin Slowey returned from the DL last night to record his first complete game. He's only 2-4 despite a 3.38 ERA. Slowey is another Twins starter with a great K/BB ratio of 4:1.
Boof Bonser is the lone Twins starter to struggle, so it would seem he would be the likely casualty when Scott Baker comes back from the DL. Bonser has 2-6, 6.16
The Twins still have one of the best closers in the business in Joe Nathan, but they lost super set up man Pat Neshak for the season.
Offensively, the Twins still rely on their two big JM's, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, and Michael Cuddyer. Morneau is on pace for his usual type of season, .305-9-40, but although Mauer is hitting .324, he has just 21 RBI and has yet to hit a home run. Cuddyer is hitting just .228-1-19 and spent some time on the DL.
Carlos Gomez, acquired in the Santana trade, is the spark plug at the top of the lineup. He's hitting .293-4-22 with 31 runs scored, 9 doubles, 3 triples, and 17 steals in 22 attempts. Earlier this season he became the first Twins player since Kirby Puckett to hit for the cycle.
Delmon Young, acquired for Matt Garza, started out strongly, but has been treading water since, hitting just .258 with no home runs and 14 RBI.
Pitching Probables for the Series
Friday: Mike Mussina (7-4, 4.39) vs. Glen Perkins (2-1, 2.77)
Saturday: Chien-Ming Wang (6-2, 3.82) vs. Boof Bonser (2-6, 6.16)
Sunday: Darrell Rasner (3-1, 1.80) vs. Nick Blackburn (4-3, 3.39)
Monday: Andy Pettitte vs. Livan Hernandez (6-2, 4.60)
Mike Mussina is looking to get back on path after 2 straight rough outings, one of which he won. He's 20-6, 3.18 in 30 career starts against the Twins.
Twins vs. Mussina
Cuddyer 2-13 1 RBI
Harris 1-4 1 RBI
Kubel 1-7 1 HR 2 RBI
Lamb 6-16 1 HR 3 RBI
Morneau 4-11 1 RBI
Glen Perkins will be facing the Yankees for the first time.
UPDATE 5:57 PM EDT