Posted on: September 22, 2010 4:59 pm

Magic numbers and 8 ball

The Twins are in the playoffs -- not that it's too much of a shock. Minnesota won last night and stuck around Target Field, along with their fans, to watch the White Sox lose in Oakland to clinch the American League Central title.

So who's next?

Here's a look at the rest of the races:

AL East
Leader: New York Yankees
Magic Number: 10
Magic 8 Ball: Signs point to yes -- sure, the Rays can win the next two games and depart New York with the same half-game deficit they arrived with, but let's just stick status quo here and say the Yankees win the division. However, if there is one thing in the Rays' favor, it's their remaining schedule -- three at home against Seattle, followed by three against the Orioles and four at Kansas City.

AL West
Leader: Texas Rangers
Magic Number: 6
Magic 8 Ball: It is decidedly so -- the Rangers have lost four of their last five games and aren't looking great, but even if they don't clinch the division in Oakland during the next four games there, Seattle's coming to town.

AL Wild Card
Leader: Tampa Bay Rays
Magic Number: 6
Magic 8 Ball: Outlook good -- only two teams are still alive in the race, the White Sox and the Red Sox. Chicago's elimination number is two and Boston's is six. The White Sox, well, they're done. And the Red Sox have six games remaining against the Yankees. They're done too.

NL East
Leader: Philadelphia Phillies
Magic Number: 6
Magic 8 Ball: As I see it, yes -- the Braves learned quickly what it's like to face Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, it's a lesson to be repeated throughout the postseason. It doesn't hurt that the Phillies have a day off tomorrow and then play the Mets and Nationals before finishing the regular season with three in Atlanta.

NL Central
Leader: Cincinnati Reds
Magic Number: 4
Magic 8 Ball: Without a doubt -- the Reds are 9-1 against the Brewers this year, and they have four more games against Milwaukee in the final week-and-a-half. As for the Cardinals? Their future is so bright, Tony La Russa is taking off his shades.

NL West

Leader: San Francisco Giants
Magic Number: 12
Magic 8 Ball: Ask again later -- We've got one, actual race as we head toward the last week of the season, so there's that. With the Giants, Padres and Rockies within 2 1/2 games of each other, this one's going to be interesting. The Giants finish their series in Wrigley tomorrow before going head-to-head with the Rockies for three in Denver, followed by a six-game homestead against the Diamondbacks and Padres. The Padres not only have those three games against at the end at AT&T Park, but host the Reds and Cubs after finishing in Los Angeles. The Rockies return home from Arizona on Friday for the games against the Giants, before three with the Dodgers and finishing with four in St. Louis.

NL Wild Card
Leader: Atlanta Braves
Magic Number: 11
Magic 8 Ball: Reply hazy, try again -- the Braves are in the driver's seat, but it seems like they're driving a Yugo, going 9-11 so far this month. One of the NL West teams certainly could end Bobby Cox's final season before its natural stopping point -- short of a World Series title, but safely in the postseason.

 -- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 22, 2010 2:00 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2010 2:38 pm

Twins set postseason rotation

Francisco Liriano The Twins have not only set their place in the playoffs, manager Ron Gardenhire has set his postseason rotation.

For now, he told reporters, it will be Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn in the playoffs, but could change if someone pitches poorly down the stretch, according to the Star Tribune 's La Velle E. Neal III .

Pavano will also get a little more rest. He'll start again on Saturday -- eight days after his last start, Thursday in Chicago.

Pavano is leading the team in wins with a 17-11 record and a 3.60 ERA, while the lefty Liriano has a better winning percentage (.636, 14-8) and lower ERA (3.44).

Kevin Slowey is the odd man out, despite going 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA and .216 batting average against in his last nine starts. Blackburn, who is today's starter for the Twins, has pitched in six games since a monthlong demotion to Triple-A and has gone 2-3 with a  2.09 ERA and a .216 batting average against.

 -- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 21, 2010 9:25 am

Mauer to get an MRI today

Joe Mauer The Twins will no doubt be holding their collective breath today as catcher Joe Mauer gets an MRI on his balky left knee today.

"He was a little sore [Monday], which was expected, but still no swelling," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Star Tribune 's Joe Christensen . "I think he's going to get an MRI, and we'll see what they say. [Team doctors] don't expect anything, but we're going to get checked out."

Mauer had surgery as a rookie to remove torn meniscus from the same knee.

He left Sunday's game in the sixth inning, but didn't take batting practice on Monday.

The Twins, already without Justin Morneau, would be hobbled in the postseason without their pair of former MVPs. Mauer is hitting .331/.407/.473 with nine home runs and 74 RBI. Morneau hasn't played since suffering a concussion on July 7.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 20, 2010 9:46 am

Twins' health an issue for postseason

Joe Mauer The Twins may have the American League Central wrapped up, but will they have enough to get past the first round?

The Twins are limping into the playoffs and that now includes their most important player, Joe Mauer.

Mauer left Sunday's game when he felt something in his left knee while running to first base in the sixth inning. It's the same knee he had surgery on in 2004.

The team has called it a "jammed knee."

"[The doctor] said to give it a couple days," Mauer told the Star Tribune 's La Velle E. Neal III . "That's what we are doing."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't too concerned.

"Doctors checked him out and said it's one of these day-to-day things," Gardenhire said. "Not a big deal, at least that's what they're telling me today. There's no fluid in there, just maybe a little inflammation. So we'll see how we go day to day with him."

The Twins have been without former MVP Justin Morneau due to a concussion suffered on July 7. The Twins still don't know when he'll return, general manager Bill Smith told CBSSports.com senior writer Scott Miller .

The team is also dealing with Denard Span's right shoulder and Jason Kubel's left wrist -- both players have been playing with those injuries, but they may have to determine whether home-field advantage is worth the health of players they'll need to use that advantage.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 18, 2010 6:51 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2010 6:58 pm

Scott Baker unlikely to re-enter rotation

Scott Baker No. 1 starter to spot starter.

Quite the fall for Scott Baker, who was coming off a 15-9 season and 4.37 ERA, pitching an even 200 innings over 33 starters.

Baker opened the season atop the Twins' rotation, but general ineffectiveness and the emergence of Francisco Liriano bumped Baker down a few pegs. In 27 starts, Baker has a 4.60 ERA although his 4.04 xFIP suggests he has pitched far better than indicated.

Baker went down on September 2 with elbow tendinitis, and manager Ron Gardenhire is unsure how to work him back in the rotation, reports 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio .

"We're kicking a lot of different things around for the rotation, so [we're] trying to make sure we get guys extra days if we can," Gardenhire said about lining up the rotation for the rest of September. Having already pitched a bullpen session, the righty is due for another Saturday that will determine how soon Baker can get back into the rotation.

However, any return to the rotation would be simply to get the current five extra rest.

"Baker would be an option, if we wanted to give people extra days, to put him back in the rotation if he feels great, and give an extra day to other guys, which is really important this time of year with all of the innings adding up," Gardenhire noted.

It seems as if Baker isn't in the Twins' October plans, so Minnesota figures to go with Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing as the front four. Baker could appear out of the bullpen as long as his injuries are behind him.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .
Category: MLB
Posted on: September 18, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2010 6:59 pm

Twins unsure if or when Morneau will return

Justin Morneau Despite being out for over two months, the Twins aren't ready to give up on Justin Morneau returning to the team in time for the postseason.

The problem is, even if Morneau can return, he might not return to his impressive .345/.437/.618 line that had him in the driver's seat for the MVP after 81 games. The 2006 MVP had 18 homers and 56 RBI as well and was on his way to another monster season until suffering a concussion.

"You sit out for two months and all of a sudden you come back and start facing major league pitching right away -- it's not always easy to do," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune , using Manny Ramirez's comments to apply to Morneau.

Ramirez, who had not delivered an extra-base hit or RBI for the White Sox until his second at-bat Friday (a home run), was talking about the difficulty of producing at the plate after missing two months to injury.

"There's some work ahead for Manny, and if Mornie were to decide he's ready to come out here and do some things, there's a lot of work to be done out here," Gardenhire added.

Morneau was at Target Field on Friday and reported feeling very good, so Gardenhire isn't ready to write off the first baseman's season, while also admitting the team doesn't have much experience in treating concussions or in prolonged absences of a player that returns just in time for the postseason.

"I honestly have no idea where we're at. We haven't had to deal with something like this," Gardenhire relayed. "[Michael] Cuddyer  was as close as we got [in 2008]. Cuddy came back and played Game 163 [the one-game playoff game against the Tigers], when he had the broken foot two years ago. I have no idea. If it happens, we'll figure out something we can do, and if it works out, great."

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .
Posted on: September 17, 2010 7:02 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2010 7:25 pm

Strong interest in former D-Backs pick

Remember Barret Loux?

Loux was the sixth overall pick in June's draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Loux, a right-hander out of Texas A&M, failed his physical and the Diamondbacks decided not to sign him. Instead, Arizona was awarded compensatory draft picks in 2011 and Loux was given free agency.

Anyway, Loux worked out for "about 15" teams in College Station, Texas, on Friday. Among the teams there was Loux's hometown Astros.

"The fact there were 15 teams there today and the fact some clubs didn't sign their first-round [picks] showed there was some interest," Astros director of scouting Bobby Heck told MLB.com . "The fact we have somewhere [shows] our interest is sincere. We'll do our work on it. You have to have balance, not only the evaluation process, but because of the medical circumstances [team medical director] Dr. [David] Lintner becomes part of our process as well as we gauge where we can or can't go on this."

Loux was 11-2 with a  2.83 ERA for the Aggies last season and is currently in school finishing up his degree. According to Heck, Loux and his people aren't in a  rush, they just what something "in place later in the fall and know where their landing place is for spring training."

UPDATE: MLB.com's Brian McTaggart lists the other teams there -- the Dodgers, Twins, Marlins, Reds, Yankees, Pirates, A's, Brewers, Mets, Angels, Blue Jays and Royals.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 17, 2010 6:49 pm

Konerko OK, says situation was handled correctly

Paul Konerko The odd codes of baseball were on display Thursday night in Chicago -- Carl Pavano accidentally hit Paul Konerko in the face with a pitch, setting off a chain reaction of baseball logic and justice.

Konerko, knowing it wasn't intentional and being pretty darn tough, got up and went to first -- only to retaliate by homering in his next at-bat.

Before Konerko had his chance to respond with the homer, White Sox starter Mark Buehrle decided he needed to intentionally hit the Twins' first batter, Michael Cuddyer, because the Twins accidentally hit his player. Cuddyer, apparently, understood and just took his base. Does all that seem right?

In baseball world, it was.

"I think everybody handled it right," Konerko told the Chicago Tribune . "Mike Cuddyer was perfect. He knows the game. Everybody involved in that little situation last night handled it perfectly. Unfortunately, you don't see that too much nowadays. The umpires handled it perfectly as well."

As if his homer wasn't proof enough that he was fine, Konerko said he was OK a day later, suffering from just a fat lip and a sore nose.

"Any time you get hit up in that area, your first thought is the eye," Konerko said. "You want to make sure both your eyes are OK, or at least your left one. After that, just checking my teeth and after that, everything is kinda replaceable."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com