MINNEAPOLIS -- Michael Tonkin has started his career without giving up an earned run in five innings, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sees him as a potential back-of-the-bullpen arm.
Tonkin, 23, has struck out six and walked two in those five frames, including 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts against the Rays on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander was impressive in the Minors this year, posting a 3.47 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 21 saves in 57 innings between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester.
Gardenhire said the key to Tonkin's success against the Rays was the use of his power slider, and he wants to see him using that pitch more moving forward.
"We were begging for sliders," Gardenhire said. "He kept throwing fastballs. But he finally did. And it's not even so much throwing it over for a strike, it's about showing them something different to set up that 95-mph fastball. If you keep pumping fastballs, they'll whack you. So he threw some sliders in the dirt and struck out [Evan] Longoria on one.
"So he has to keep spinning the ball, because there are a lot of guys who throw 95, but if you have a breaking ball, it gives you a chance to be one of those guys at the back of a bullpen."
Gardy knows rotation an issue moving forward
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's seen some improvements from the Twins in a few areas this year, such as the bullpen and the defense, but starting pitching remains the club's biggest problem moving forward.
Gardenhire was candid before Sunday's game against the Rays, saying he doesn't believe the Twins have the kind of pitching in their organization to turn it around next year, and they will need some outside help.
"I don't think we have enough ready arms to step into this rotation," Gardenhire said. "We have lots of candidates. But are these guys ready to turn you around? I don't think so. They can fill some spots. But everyone is looking for pitching, and we're no different than any other organization."
Gardenhire also said he's been disappointed in some players who just seem to be going through the motions this month. He said he's been impressed by younger players such as Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann, who have been eager to improve, but wants to see more players step up over the last few weeks of the season.
"A lot of these guys have to understand this means a lot right now to how this roster is going to shape up next year," Gardenhire said. "Hopefully, they'll figure it out. We've been beating it into their heads that there's still something to play for."
Mauer not flying to Chicago, may join Twins later
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer will not accompany the Twins on their flight to Chicago on Sunday night for their upcoming series against the White Sox, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wouldn't rule out Mauer joining them at some point on their seven-day road trip.
Mauer, who has been out since experiencing a concussion on a foul tip on Aug. 19, continued his indoor workouts at Target Field on Sunday, but has yet to take batting practice outside since suffering a setback on Wednesday.
"Joe's not going on the trip," Gardenhire said. "But he can join us on this trip. Just because he's not leaving with us, doesn't mean he can't join us."
Gardenhire added that he expects Mauer to return at some point this season, as he doesn't want the catcher to shut it down if he's healthy and cleared by doctors. The Twins want to see Mauer on the field again this year so he can put the concussion behind him heading into next season.
"He's paid to play baseball," Gardenhire said. "If he's healthy, he should play. ... It's about whether there's a benefit or anything. It's just that if he's healthy, he should play. He's a baseball player. That's what he's paid to do. And he knows that. No one knows that more than him. He wants to play."