ST. PETERSBURG -- Denard Span has developed a reputation for seeing a lot of pitches atop the order, and the Twins have paired their leadoff man with a similarly disciplined hitter in Jamey Carroll.
Entering Saturday's game, Carroll was 12th among qualified Major Leaguers in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance at 4.27. Joe Mauer wasn't far behind, sitting 15th at 4.23 pitches per plate appearance. Carroll's professional, patient approach and solid on-base percentage intrigued the Twins when they pursued him this offseason, and they have seen it in action so far this season.
"You know Denard's always going to take pitches and is well known for that, an on-base guy. One of the things we liked about Jamey was the same thing. He's not afraid to take pitches," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He'll foul pitches off. He's not afraid to get in two-strike situations. He's a good contact guy. He does the little things right. He can do the little small-ball game of getting guys over and shooting the ball the other way."
Having the top of the order see a lot of pitches can prove to be beneficial for the middle of the lineup as well, as they've had more opportunities to see what the starting pitcher has to offer and how he's attacking hitters. So far, the Twins have to like what they've seen out of Span (.367 on-base percentage) and Carroll, who has a .355 OBP despite a .245 average due to his eight walks.
"It's important. Those are the table-setters," Gardenhire said. "The only way for the big guys to drive in runs is for guys to get on ahead of them and see a lot of pitches. Our two guys at the top both do that very well."
Morneau able to DH despite sore foot
ST. PETERSBURG -- Justin Morneau was back in the starting lineup Saturday night against the Rays, batting fifth as the Twins' designated hitter.
Morneau still felt a little soreness in the right foot that kept him out of Friday's lineup, but he came to Tropicana Field early, took some swings and ran around in the afternoon, then told manager Ron Gardenhire he was good to go. Morneau wore a protective pad strapped to his right leg to prevent another foul ball from causing further damage.
Gardenhire said Morneau will start Sunday afternoon's series finale at Tropicana Field as well, most likely at first base.
"It's not perfect, but it's better. He'll get through it," Gardenhire said. "All I know is he came in and said, 'I'm good to go. Let's do it.' He came out and worked early."
Morneau was able to run straight without any pain before Friday's game, but turning on his right foot was slightly more problematic. He wasn't feeling 100 percent, but he insisted to Gardenhire that he was well enough to start.
"After 'I'm good,' I don't really worry about it," Gardenhire said. "All he really needs to do is make left turns."
How about slow left turns as he jogs around the bases?
"That'd be fine, too," Gardenhire said.
Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, playing with Triple-A Rochester, suffered a high right ankle sprain while sliding into third base on Friday. He told the team trainer he felt fine and finished the game. He will undergo X-rays on Monday.
Double-A New Britain right-hander Alex Wimmers, the Twins' No. 15 prospect as ranked by MLB.com, is dealing with a right elbow injury. He missed his last start and will see Dr. Michael Joyce, the team's doctor, on Monday.
Home teams, including the Rays, were 2-12 (.143) on Friday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the lowest such winning percentage on a date with at least 14 games since Aug. 4, 2006, when home teams were 2-13 (.133).
Entering Saturday's game, the Twins' pitching staff was averaging just 137.1 pitches per game, the lowest average in the American League.