Relax and enjoy

Twins skipper starts to get readyfor the Yankees


The anticipation of winning the American League Central Division pennant 24 hours earlier was now as stale as a Kaiser roll from last Sunday's brunch. The electric atmosphere created by 33,650 fans the night before had fizzled several hundred watts.

At the Twins' regular season home finale Wednesday, the Metrodome embraced an atmosphere more fitting of the last day of school than a prelude to the postseason.

Ripped papers and torn cardboard left from Tuesday's post-game celebration littered the Metrodome corridors that led to the Twins clubhouse. Most of the Twins' regulars were nowhere to be found. Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones were as absent as seniors on skip day. Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas could have flown back to Central America, near as we could tell.


A couple of hours before Wednesday's game, the first of the final five that don't matter, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sat in his office chair, with his feet on his desk and his laptop computer at the ready.

"Let me check my e-mail, here," Gardenhire said. "I have the practice schedule for the playoffs, but the Yankees haven't confirmed it yet."

The uncertainty of a practice schedule normally would unnerve a manager who was trying to align his obligatory ducks in a row so everything could get on schedule for the postseason, which begins Tuesday against the Yankees in New York. Normally, the lack of organization could be maddening.

Not for Gardenhire. Not on Wednesday.

Not when two weeks ago, the Twins had lost two straight at Chicago and saw the White Sox flexing their muscle atop the Central with a two-game lead. Fourteen days later, here the Twins are starting a Class triple-A lineup the folks in Rochester, N.Y. watched all summer long.

Roller-coaster ride

The last two weeks have been one endless Tilt-A-Whirl ride for Gardenhire and the Twins. Rather than collapsing like a tent in Hurricane Isabel, the Twins scoffed and flaunted their full house of pitchers over hitters, while the White Sox and Royals were both holding on to nothing more than a pair of deuces in a game of pennant fever poker.

"It's definitely been a different one this year," Gardenhire said. "We didn't do much interstate. A lot of county roads this year."


That the Twins are planning for the postseason was as expected on April 1 as it is now. Problem is their route from Point A to Point B begs the question: Was Ray Charles the team's designated bus driver?

Rotation must be set

Kidding aside, Gardenhire's job is far from over.

The Twins have until 10 a.m., Tuesday to finalize their playoff roster. The biggest question facing Gardenhire focuses around his pitching rotation. This we know: Johan Santana will start Game 1 in New York, Brad Radke will start Game 2. Kyle Lohse will start Game 3 the following Saturday at the Metrodome. After that it's unclear.

Who knows, we could see Kenny Rogers or Eric Milton as a Game 4 starter. Then again, maybe Santana will pitch on his usual four days rest.

"You'd like to be able to pitch them all," Gardenhire said. "They've all done very well, but you have to go with your best. Kenny's pitched his tail off and Milty's had two starts. But two starts is not a lot to go on."

Setting his playoff pitching rotation wasn't the sole cause of concern Wednesday.

Gardenhire wasn't sure if his headache was a result of Tuesday's post-game party or the fact his Twins are 0-13 against the Bronx Bombers the last two seasons.


"They pretty much have it all," Gardenhire said. "They just hit and pitch. (Tom Kelly) was scouting the Yankees and the days he saw them they didn't hit-and-run, they didn't steal, they just stood there and whacked the ball.

"We thought they were playing as good as they could probably play (in April when they walloped the Twins) but TK said they're playing better than they have all year."

Thankfully, though, so are the Twins.

That's why Gardenhire was smiling when, with his feet propped up on his desk Wednesday, he admitted he didn't know who would pitch against the Yankees inGame 4.

Troy Young is a sports writer for the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached at

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