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After slow start, Cuddyer coming on

Knight Ridder Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS -- By the end of April, their seasons sinking fast, Kyle Lohse and Michael Cuddyer were crying Mayday.

They continued their May resurrections Wednesday night, keying the Twins' 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 23,929 at the Metrodome.

"I've always been a slow starter, and once the weather starts heating up, I start heating up," said Cuddyer, hitting .383 in May after going 3-for-3 with the go-ahead home run Wednesday.

Lohse is experiencing a heat wave, too. Making his first start in 11 days, the right-handed pitcher turned in his best performance of the season. He is 2-0 with a 2.77 earned-run average in three games (one relief appearance) in May after surrendering just two runs in six innings Wednesday. Had he not permitted two walks, the Blue Jays wouldn't have scored.

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Lohse showed the ability to pitch out of jams, something he rarely he did last season--his worst as a big leaguer--and in the first month of this season. Case in point: the fourth inning. The Blue Jays battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the score on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly into foul territory in left field by Russ Adams. Lohse then hit Andy Dominique with a pitch to reload the bases.

But Lohse hunkered down and induced hot-hitting Alex Rios to fly to center field to quash the threat.

"I just wasn't going to give in," said Lohse, who was 1-2 with a 6.65 ERA in April.

That was all the more impressive considering some of the adversity Lohse has faced recently. Lohse strained his shoulder in an April 28 outing against Kansas City, and he did not make his next start until nine days later. He was skipped the last time through the rotation to keep Brad Radke and Johan Santana on schedule.

Lohse wasn't happy about that, but he used the extra time to continue to work on better command of three pitches. It's a change in approach--limiting his repertoire--that he and pitching coach Rick Anderson began the first time he was skipped in the rotation last month.

"I had a lot of stored-up, uh, I don't know, pitches in me," Lohse said. "I just wanted to get back out there. . . . I just want to get the ball more. I think I did a good job tonight."

Cuddyer picked up Lohse with a two-out solo home run in the fourth inning. The 394-foot shot landed a foot or two to the left of the baggy in right-center, and that was the difference between it being a home run and a double.

That was another indication Cuddyer has overcome a miserable April and fully settled in as an everyday player. Cuddyer, in his first season as the starting third baseman, is on a seven-game hitting streak and has raised his season average 70 points this month to .275.

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"It looks to me like he's settling in pretty good and becoming a player," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's not something we're looking at too awful hard anymore. We're just letting him go out and play. I know there were some questions, but there's always going to be questions, and hopefully you'll play through them. Right now, he's doing that."

Said Cuddyer: "I haven't done anything different as far as approach. I'm starting to find some holes. . . . As the hits started coming, the confidence started going up."

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(c) 2005, St. Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.).

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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