DETROIT -- Before Monday's series opener against the Tigers, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire raved about his starters' ability to battle through games and credited them as a big reason for the team's good start.
The bullpen has been right there with them, posting a 2.30 ERA on the year entering Wednesday.
In the first two games against the Tigers, neither starter made it out of the sixth inning, but the bullpen put together six combined scoreless innings. Over the last six games, the bullpen has a 1.53 ERA.
But while the bullpen's performance has been encouraging, Gardenhire knows much of that success going forward hinges on the starters lowering their workload.
"If we want to keep it that way, our starters are going to have go deep," Gardenhire said. "You can't pitch three and four innings out of the bullpen and expect things to go rosy for you.
"You saw on the other side, Jim [Leyland] was talking about how his bullpen is beaten up a little bit. That happens, and that's why you need your starters getting into the second half of games. You can't expect to go three, four innings out of the bullpen very long before you're in trouble. But our bullpen is throwing great."
After playing 23 straight, Mauer gets day off
DETROIT -- As expected, Joe Mauer was not in Wednesday's starting lineup against the Tigers, with Ryan Doumit is catching in his place.
Before Tuesday's game, manager Ron Gardenhire said he was hoping to give Mauer Wednesday off, with Thursday also being an off-day. Mauer had played in all of the first 23 games this year, has taken a number of foul tips off his body and is in the midst of a 3-for-34 slump.
Gardenhire wasn't 100 percent sure on Tuesday that Doumit would be ready to go, saying he was dealing with some sort of illness. But Doumit pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game and was batting fifth om Wednesday.
"Yeah, he's doing fine," Gardenhire said before Wednesday's game. "He was ready to go yesterday and did his thing. He's doing good. He's catching. We'll see how him and [Scott] Diamond work together."
Doumit is hitting .194 on the season, and he's 3-for-21 with three walks in six games as the catcher. He has caught two of Diamond's three starts this year.
Twins preparing for Interleague Play
DETROIT -- Following Wednesday's series finale between the Twins and Tigers, Detroit will head on a road trip that includes two games in Washington. The Twins' next road trip later this month will include stops in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
With Interleague games now being played all year, it can cause some problems for American League teams, and manager Ron Gardenhire said he and Jim Leyland have talked about that.
"I know that this sets up for some crazy stuff," Gardenhire said. "I was talking to Jim, and he explained to me at the end of the season, they go to Miami, and they could be in a pennant race. Their pitchers are going to have to hit, and you lose your DH for three or four days. That's not good. That's not good for our league.
"It's not fair, because you're trying to win a pennant, and now you lose your [designated hitter] going to a National League thing, which you only do two or three times a year. That's not right. It shouldn't be that way. You have to risk your pitchers running the bases the last week in the season."
The Twins finish the season with a homestand against the Tigers and Indians, but forcing an AL team to play at an NL park at the end of the year is not popular among these managers.
"I liked it better when, if you're going to do it, do it in the middle like they were and leave them there, rather than all over the place. I know there are reasons, but at least we knew how to prepare for it. We're going to play in National League parks, we're going to play in two cities, we let our pitchers hit, [prepare them] a couple weeks before and then we would be done. You wouldn't have to deal with it until the World Series. I liked that part. At least we knew where we were at. Now, it's all over the place.
"I said worst-case scenario is we'd be in a pennant race at the end of the season and your pitchers all of a sudden have to hit and run the bases and something happens. I know National League teams do it all the time, but we don't. There is a difference."
The Twins finish May with two games in Milwaukee, followed by two against the Brewers at home. Gardenhire was disappointed that the teams won't play three in each park like they used to.
"It's the first time, for me, that we have Milwaukee for two and we go there for two," he said. "We always played three and three. It's a big deal for our fans to go to Milwaukee, and for their fans to come here. It's a two-and-two during the week. That's always a big deal. Tons of Twins fans go to Milwaukee and pack that place, and just the same way when they come and pack our place.
"I thought that's what it was all about. The natural rival used to be the Brewers. That was always a pretty cool series, three over there and three at our place. Now it's two and two in the middle of the week. A lot of people will have to take off work."
Chris Vannini is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.