Gibson makes his first start since returning from a one-game exodus to Rochester on Saturday night. (photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media)

It’s overcast and warm as the Twins prepare for game three of a four-game weekend series against the Texas Rangers. It’ll be left-hander Cole Hamels (4.01 ERA, 4.64 FIP in 76.1 innings) dealing for the Rangers this evening with righty Kyle Gibson (6.08 ERA, 5.52 FIP in 94.2 innings) returning from Rochester to make the start for the Twins.

More on that in a bit.

The roster move initiated Friday night became official on Saturday, as Zack Granite was sent out to Triple-A Rochester to make room for Gibson. Manager Paul Molitor said he didn’t see a player who lacked confidence in his ability to help the team in the big leagues when he delivered the message that Granite was going back to the minors.

“I just emphasized the fact that he was able to step in on an almost everyday basis when (Byron Buxton) went down and held his own,” Molitor said. “I complimented him on the way he had kind of a fearless approach to his first run through the major leagues. I don’t think anything really intimidated him too much.”

Molitor relayed that Granite’s biggest takeaway to his first stint in the big leagues was “It’s a lot more detailed up here, but it’s the same game.” Molitor said that speaks of Granite’s confidence, but that the team just felt it was better suited to him to get to play every day in the minors rather than in a supplementary role in the big leagues.

Here’s how the Twins will line up today against Hamels:

Here’s how the Rangers will counter against Gibson:

Hamels has struggled a bit this season, both in terms of health and actual results, but he was very good in July with a 3.66 ERA and 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s still well below his career rate, but a far cry from the 4.1 mark he put up in April before missing nearly two full months. Hamels has been far better at home (3.12 ERA) than on the road (5.00) this season, and righties OPS against him (.724) than lefties (.540) — hence Molitor stacking his lineup with as many righties as possible.

Hamels returned after dealing with a right oblique strain that cost him all of May and virtually all of June, and after a tough start in his first outing back against the Indians has been really good in the six starts since. Three of his last four starts have resulted in double-digit swings and misses, and he’s struck out six or more batters three times over his last six starts. Hamels had double-digit swinging strikes just once in his first eight starts. Again, it’s not vintage Hamels, but it’s closer to who he’s been in the past.

I also caught up with Levi Weaver of WFAA.com who is in town to cover the Rangers, and we chatted for a bit about the Rangers and Hamels:

Gibson returns after a one-game exodus to Triple-A, where he got to throw in front of 70 friends and family members in Indianapolis as sort of a “best of a bad thing” situation. Gibson was sent out as part of a numbers game scenario after arguably his best outing of the season against the Tigers after the Twins acquired Jaime Garcia, but that it was one of his best outings of the season might say more about his season than the outing. Make no mistake, it was a fairly good start — 7.1 innings, three earned runs, five strikeouts and three walks — but the game score was still just 58.

Gibson held his own against Detroit and even MLB-best offense Houston in the start before that, but his ERA in July was still 6.00 due to a seven-run outburst against the Orioles at home on July 9. Gibson has consistently struggled at home this season, as he’s permitted an OPS against of .952 and has a 6.31 ERA at home against marks of .812 and 4.73 on the road, respectively. Don’t be surprised if Gibson’s performance today is tied somehow to what happens with Hector Santiago when he’s ready to return.

Unusual lineup

Perhaps the most strange thing about an overall odd Twins lineup is that Ehire Adrianza is getting the start at first base. Adrianza has played an inning at the spot on two occasions this season — against Houston on May 31 and Seattle on June 12 — but is making just the second start at the position in his MLB career. Adrianza started at first base for the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 22, 2015 against the San Diego Padres. Former Twins righty Chris Heston started that day for the Giants, while Buster Posey missed the game with a hip issue and Brandon Belt was dealing with concussions — an issue that again saw him placed on the seven-day disabled list on Saturday after he was hit on the head by Diamondbacks rookie lefty Anthony Banda in Friday night’s game. Overall, Adrianza has played 11 career defensive innings at first base in the big leagues, and none in the minors.

“It’s a different look today,” Molitor said, especially in light of Joe Mauer sitting in favor of such an unusual backup first baseman. “I had kind of targeted this day for Joe for a while, given the fact that he’s been playing a lot — day games, lefties, road trips. We’ve talked all year about trying to keep Joe as fresh as we can, given the workload we put upon him. Today is the day.”

Molitor also wanted to get Chris Gimenez another chance to get into the lineup. “He didn’t have much of a chance to play much on the road trip,” Molitor said. “This was a good opportunity for him to get back-to-back days and kind of refresh Jason (Castro), who has done the majority of our catching of late.”

Anniversary for the Duff Man

Today is the two-year anniversary of Tyler Duffey’s rough debut in Toronto. The righty lasted just two innings at Rogers Centre that day, allowing six earned runs on five hits — including a pair of home runs.

I showed Duffey the screenshot (see below) from before his first start, as a grammar error on the Fox Sports North scouting report was fairly humorous. Duffey chuckled, and we agreed he’s done a nice job kicking around despite having a failing fastball. Sad!

Injury Updates

Glen Perkins was hanging out in the clubhouse prior to Saturday’s game, and played catch prior to batting practice. The tentative plan is for him to throw a bullpen before heading out to join the Double-A Lookouts at some point next week as he continues to ramp up in his recovery. Perkins is enthused with how well he feels, but he still has to jump through some hoops in terms of pitch counts and working on consecutive days before the team feels he’s close to returning, Molitor said. “It was good to see him,” Molitor said. “I was encouraged by our conversation in that he’s feeling as well as he has in a long time. He’s also excited about the fact that he’s seeing some of his stuff return — at least to some degree.” Molitor said that Perkins is antsy to get back to the big leagues, but understands he still has work to do.

Santiago will head out to Rochester to make another start on Wednesday. That’ll give him an extra day of rest before he pitches, but also buy the Twins some time as they consider his role moving forward. Molitor said he was open to the idea of a six-man rotation, but also hadn’t given it much thought. “I think you’re always open-minded about ways to proceed when you’re overloaded in one area of your team,” Molitor said. “We’ll see how he does. When we feel he’s ready to help us, we’ll have to decide (in what role).”

“We talked about what the best situation for him was,” Molitor said. “I think we originally had talked about three starts, but the fact that we’re still trying to build arm strength there with the lack of pitching he’s done over the past several weeks. I think that’s the best course of action for him, as well as trying to re-find some of the secondary stuff to make it a more complete package.” Molitor said that sustained velocity — Santiago said he could touch 90 mph but not necessarily sustain it — was part of the reason the Twins want to see another start from him down there. “That’s part of the reason we want him to keep pitching. The last thing we want is him to come up here and go backwards in some fashion,” Molitor said. Molitor said they had him 85-89 mph with his fastball in the last start.

Miguel Sano told reporters he wasn’t feeling any better after a Tony Barnette pitch hit him on the hand in the sixth inning of Friday night’s game. It was very near the spot where Sano took a pitch during the Los Angeles Dodgers series, and despite the fact that the third baseman could close his fist last night after the game, he was unable to do so when he woke up on Saturday morning. “Miggy’s day-to-day,” Molitor said before batting practice. “He obviously has some swelling and soreness in the hand. I’m not exactly sure about his availability. We’ll see how he does pre-game.”

Sano did not take batting practice on the field. He did go out to shag fly balls in left-center with Bartolo Colon, but did not hit and went so far as to wear a lefty fielding glove. He also flipped balls he corralled to someone else to throw.

Notes and Quotes

  • Friday night’s win evened the series against the Rangers at one game apiece, and gave the Twins a 3-2 lead in the season series.
  • Even after throttling lefty Martin Perez on Friday night, the Twins are hitting just .246/.323/.387 against left-handed pitchers this season. That’s good for an 88 wRC+ — a four-point jump from the mark of 84 the team entered the game with.
  • Eddie Rosario is hitting .316 with a .359 on-base percentage since July 1.
  • Brian Dozier’s second-inning home run Friday night pushed him ahead of Mauer for 11th in Twins history. Dozier has 136 and Mauer has 135.  
  • Molitor on what Adrianza can do defensively at first base: “I’m sure it’s not his most comfortable position. I thought about a couple other possibilities with Miggy being out. I just think he’s a good infielder. He’s got good hands. He’s got good instincts. He reads swings. There’s a lot of things you can incorporate into any infield position you play. It’s not his most experienced spot, but I trust him that he can go out there and have a good night for us defensively.”
  • Molitor on if Adrianza contributes to a good infield defense on a night when Gibson — a high groundball rate pitcher — is pitching: “It’s not a defensive lineup we’d run out there on a regular basis, but we have guys with good hands all around the infield tonight.”

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