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White Sox notebook, 9/5

September 5, 2011 Comments off

Right-hander Axelrod joins White Sox bullpen

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Between games of Monday’s split doubleheader against the Twins, the White Sox selected the contract of right-hander Dylan Axelrod from Triple-A Charlotte.To make room for Axelrod on the 40-man roster, the White Sox also transferred right-hander Tony Pena to the 60-day disabled list.

Axelrod, 26, made 26 appearances (24 starts) between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte this season, going 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA. He allowed 45 earned runs over 150 2/3 innings.

Signed by the White Sox as a free agent on Aug. 2, 2009, Axelrod was named to the Southern League midseason All-Star team after going 3-2 with a 3.34 ERA with the Barons. Axelrod was even better for the Knights, posting a 6-1 record with a 2.27 ERA in 15 starts.

Pena has been on the 15-day DL since May 29 with right elbow tendinitis. In 17 relief appearances before going on the DL, Pena went 1-1 with a 6.20 ERA, allowing 14 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings of work.

Struggling Dunn gets rare start in opener

MINNEAPOLIS — For just the third time in nine games, designated hitter Adam Dunn was in the White Sox lineup for Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said it was a product of the doubleheader and the need for everyone to play, as well as to “see what we can get out of him.”

“Hopefully, he’ll come out and help the ballclub to win the game,” Guillen said.

Dunn has struggled throughout his disappointing season, batting just .163 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs entering Monday. Over the last two years with the Nationals, Dunn hit 76 home runs while driving in 208 runs, and his batting average was 100 points higher.

White Sox center fielder Alex Rios also has struggled, batting .220 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs entering Monday. Rios’ numbers are down from 2010, when he batted .284 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs.

Guillen said he believed Dunn and Rios owed it to themselves to do whatever is needed in the offseason to improve in 2012.

“Everybody learns by mistakes,” Guillen said. “In the offseason, when you get older, you’ve got to work a little bit more, a little bit harder to try to get better.

“I don’t think they should feel guilty about how much money they made without contributing. They want to, they were ready. But I think when the years go by and you’re getting older, you have to take care of yourself a lot better.”

Guillen also was asked if he thought the respective performances of Dunn and Rios were “embarrassing enough” for them to put in the extra work needed to improve next season.

While he could not answer for how Dunn or Rios felt, Guillen made it clear how he felt.

“They should be embarrassed,” Guillen said. “I think they feel bad about the way they played this year.”

In the 2-1 Game 1 victory, Dunn went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Rios went 3-for-5 with two runs scored in the 4-0 victory in Game 2.

Guillen attributes struggles to poor start

MINNEAPOLIS — Manager Ozzie Guillen attributed his team’s struggles this season to its poor start, when the White Sox dropped to 11 games under .500 in early May.

After a loss on May 6, the White Sox were 11-22 and sat in last place in the American League Central, 11 games behind first-place Cleveland.

So what can the White Sox do next season to improve in the first month?

“I guess, talk to the Commissioner and say, ‘The White Sox are not going to show up in April,'” Guillen joked. “In the past, I feel like we might not play enough guys [in Spring Training]. Now we did it opposite, but we didn’t play good in Spring Training either.”

The White Sox went 11-20 this spring, finishing 14th out of 15 teams in Cactus League play. They also had the worst record of an AL team in Spring Training.

But Guillen said he does not plan to change much next year.

“I will do the same stuff,” he said. “I think everybody was fine, because I think everybody liked it. Everybody was ready to go.”

White Sox not concerned with short turnaround

MINNEAPOLIS — With their series finale Sunday in Detroit moved to a night game, the White Sox had a quick turnaround going into Monday’s doubleheader against the Twins.

They arrived in the Twin Cities in the early-morning hours, less than 12 hours before the scheduled start of Game 1 at Target Field. Even with the short night, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was not worried about his team going into the twin bill.

“Most of the players, they have a lot of short nights,” Guillen said. “I think everybody should be fine. And I expect them to go out there and play the game.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Peavy, homers give White Sox rare sweep

August 7, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Given their recent struggles against the Twins, a trip to Target Field didn’t exactly seem like the best solution for the White Sox and their six-game losing streak.

But when they left the Twin Cities on Sunday, the White Sox had completed their first three-game sweep of the Twins in more than five years with a 7-0 victory.

“After that last stretch, we could’ve come in here with our heads hung low and we could’ve mailed it in against a team that really has had our number,” said right-hander Jake Peavy, who was nearly unhittable against the Twins.

“We came in here, we played hard and watched the chips fall where they may, and we came out with three wins. We feel fortunate, but we know we’ve got to make a hard, hard push, and three games isn’t enough if we’re going to make a race out of this.”

Backed by four home runs and a three-run fourth, Peavy delivered his best start since May, while picking up his first win since June.

Allowing just three hits with six strikeouts and no walks, Peavy tossed eight scoreless innings. It was just the second time this season Peavy has gone eight or more innings, with the other being a three-hit shutout against the Indians in his second start of the season on May 18.

“Peavy threw the ball well,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “The thing about him today, he was throwing more strikes, he was around the plate more, and I think that’s the reason he had that type of game.”

The Twins sent no more than four batters to the plate in an inning against Peavy, who retired the side in order in the second, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

It was Peavy’s first scoreless outing and his first win since tossing four shutout innings in relief on June 25 against the Nationals. Peavy also won for the first time as a starter since June 22 against the Cubs.

“He was just mixing up all his pitches and making you chase,” said Twins right fielder Jason Kubel. “He’d also get you looking at some good pitches, too. So he was using his sinker, his cutter, his curveball and changeup effectively. I mean, everything was effective, so it was a pretty good job from him today.”

After giving up a double in the first to Joe Mauer, and back-to-back singles in the third, Peavy retired the last 10 batters he faced and 17 of the last 18.

Peavy allowed more than one baserunner in an inning just once, in the third inning. The only baserunner he allowed after that came in the fifth, when he hit Matt Tolbert in the foot with a curveball.

“Just changed speeds, I threw the ball anywhere from 70 mph to about 90,” Peavy said. “I threw some cutters, threw breaking balls, changeups. I was just aggressive. I just can’t stand putting people on base. My stuff was OK, but it makes all the difference in the world when you get a two-, three-run lead early.”

Making his first career start at first base, Brent Lillibridge put the White Sox on the board with a 401-foot solo blast in the second inning. Paul Konerko followed with a solo shot of his own to lead off the fourth, and Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios each doubled and scored as the White Sox took control of the game.

In the seventh inning, Alexei Ramirez added a two-run blast off reliever Alex Burnett for good measure, and Rios put another in the seats an inning later off lefty Jose Mijares. Everyone in the White Sox lineup had at least one hit in the game, while six different players scored a run.

“We have great players here,” Rios said. “We had a good series, everybody did a good job. That’s what we need to get things rolling.”

Twins lefty Brian Duensing lasted 6 1/3 innings, but gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Coming into the weekend, the White Sox had beaten the Twins just once all season, while losing 10 of their last 11 against their division rivals. The sweep of the Twins was the first for the White Sox in a three-game series since April 21-23, 2006, and it’s the first for Chicago in Minnesota since June 29-July 1, 2004.

“Finally, we played better against them,” Guillen said. “Every time we come to town, every time we face these guys, they give us a very tough time. It’s just fun to see those guys play the way they did, especially against this ballclub.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox notebook, 8/7

August 7, 2011 Comments off

Stance adjustment pays off for Rios

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — A change in the positioning of his hands may have contributed to White Sox center fielder Alex Rios’ three-hit game on Saturday night.Rios started for the first time since Wednesday, and he picked up a double, two singles and a stolen base. Recently, Rios has moved his hands higher, and on Saturday he changed where he held the bat prior to the pitch.

Instead of holding the bat more vertically, Rios moved it down to rest on his shoulder until the pitcher began his delivery. While one game is not enough to say if the change made the difference, Rios had his best game at the plate since late June, when he went 3-for-4 against the Nationals.

“I hope he keeps swinging the bat like that, we need it,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “I don’t know what he did, I never asked him what he did. I told him the other day to raise himself up. I don’t know if it was that, but the last couple days, he’s swung the bat better.”

Rios continued to produce in Sunday’s 7-0 victory, going 2-for-4 with a double, homer and two RBIs.

Struggling Dunn sits against Twins lefty

MINNEAPOLIS — With the Twins starting lefty Brian Duensing on Sunday, White Sox designated Adam Dunn got a day off, his first in two weeks. Manager Ozzie Guillen said he may give Dunn another day off later on the road trip as well.

After picking up a few hits against the Yankees, Dunn went 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series against the Twins, with two walks, three strikeouts and a run scored.

“He’s struggling so much right now. Hopefully, with a little break we give him, we can get something better out of him,” Guillen said. “He was swinging the bat a little bit better in Chicago, but the last couple days he lost it.”

Dunn has just 54 hits in 331 at-bats and a .163 average to go along with a .294 on-base percentage, and he’s slugging just .302. His struggles drew national attention on Thursday when Stephen Colbert joked about Dunn threatening Bill Bergen’s record-low batting average of .139.

While his continued struggles could likely be affecting Dunn’s confidence at the plate, which would only compound the issue, Guillen thinks it’s more frustrating than anything for Dunn right now.

“I think mentally, he should be very exhausted,” Guillen said. “He’s missing pitches. He’s missing fastballs, he’s missing changeups, he’s missing breaking balls, guessing wrong pitches. Everything has piled up, one thing after another.”

With two months left in the season, it’s unlikely Dunn will be able to improve his poor offensive numbers. But Guillen hopes that Dunn will learn from this season and come back better prepared and in better shape for the 2012 season.

“He has to stay in shape now, he’s not 22 years old anymore,” Guillen said. “Now he has to learn that he has to prepare himself better. That happens to everyone. That happened to [Paul Konerko], that happened to [Mark] Buehrle.”

Brent Lillibridge started at first base in Sunday’s 7-0 victory and went 2-for-4 with a homer, his second in two games.

Stewart an option for rotation, bullpen

MINNEAPOLIS — Ozzie Guillen has not decided yet, but the White Sox manager said he’s leaning toward giving Zach Stewart another before putting him in the bullpen.

Stewart would likely pitch on Friday, if he did start again, but he could be needed out of the bullpen before then, which would be the most likely thing keeping Stewart from making a second start.

“I’m thinking, personally, we should keep him and give those guys six days,” Guillen said. “I don’t know yet, but … I have to know in the next couple days because I have to know exactly who I’m going to have in the bullpen and how I’m going to use them.”

Stewart allowed just one run on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings Saturday night in in a 6-1 victory to pick up his first Major League win.

While it remains a possibility that Stewart could start against the Royals, the right-hander would not start again the next time through the rotation, because the White Sox have off-days on Aug. 15 and Aug. 22, and using a six-man rotation through that stretch would give everyone too much time between starts.

Guillen said he would talk to White Sox general manager Ken Williams before making a decision on when Stewart would pitch next.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox ‘pen saves Stewart’s first win

August 6, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — As he made his White Sox debut, right-hander Zach Stewart was told by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to have some fun, throw strikes and give the team a chance to win.

Stewart did just that, delivering a solid start and picking up his first Major League victory as the White Sox won their second straight, 6-1, over the Twins at Target Field on Saturday.

The 24-year-old right-hander pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on eight hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Stewart tossed 79 pitches, 55 of which were strikes.

“That’s pretty much my usual game plan, just go out and try to throw a lot of strikes and attack the zone,” Stewart said. “And, you know, get ’em out.

“I like to go out and try to make them put the bat on the ball and hit ground balls and just save my pitch count to where I can throw later into games.”

Through four innings, Stewart had allowed just two singles and a walk before the Twins started to figure him out a bit. He got into trouble in both the fifth and sixth innings, but escaped with just one run allowed.

“Their guy did a good job of keeping us off balance,” said Twins starter Carl Pavano, who allowed two runs (one earned) on nine hits over eight innings. “It seemed like he had pretty good stuff, too. He had a good fastball and good secondary stuff, so you have to tip your hat to him as well.”

Stewart credited catcher A.J. Pierzynski for calling a good game behind the plate, noting that he just tried to follow Pierzynski’s lead.

With runners on the corners in the sixth, the White Sox turned an inning-ending double play to help Stewart get out of the jam.

“Once they saw that he was throwing strikes, they started swinging early, and he got some easy, quick outs,” said Pierzynski, who said he had never seen Stewart throw a pitch until in the bullpen just minutes prior to the game. “He made some pitches when he had to, the double play on Delmon Young [in the sixth] was huge.”

In the fifth, the White Sox got on the board with a walk by Brent Morel and a pair of singles by Juan Pierre and Paul Konerko. Morel scored on Konerko’s two-out single, while Pierre stole third base and scored as the throw got away from Twins third baseman Danny Valencia one batter later.

Alejandro De Aza scored from third in the ninth on catcher Drew Butera’s errant throw to second following a Joe Nathan wild pitch.

Konerko then plated another run with a fielder’s choice, and Brent Lillibridge launched a two-run homer off Nathan to put the game out of reach.

Chris Sale relieved Stewart with one on and one out in the seventh, and he retired the first two batters he faced.

After giving up a double and throwing a wild pitch in the eighth, he got two crucial groundouts by Jason Kubel and Jim Thome to keep the Twins from tying the game, and Jason Frasor got the White Sox out of the inning with a strikeout of Valencia looking on three pitches.

“I think everybody knows how tough he is,” Thome said of Sale. “He throws 97 [mph] and throws a slider. The thing he does real well is that his arm speed when he throws the slider is like his heater. It’s not coming out like it’s his heater, but his arm speed is very good.”

Sergio Santos worked a perfect ninth to finish out what Stewart started.

Before the game, Guillen said he would have to wait until after he saw Stewart pitch before he decided what the White Sox would do with the right-hander for the rest of the season.

The only thing that was certain after Saturday’s game was that Stewart will stay with the big league club for a while and has impressed his manager so far.

“I like his attitude and his presence on the mound,” Guillen said. “He’s got a pretty good makeup. Hopefully, he’ll keep it up like that.”

Will Stewart get another opportunity to start?

“The way he threw the ball, he should,” Guillen said.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox notebook, 8/5

August 5, 2011 Comments off

Ozzie hoping to see Thome blast No. 600

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — If it were up to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, he’d get to see Jim Thome hit his 600th career home run this weekend, but in a Chicago victory at Target Field.

“To be honest with you, I hope when he hits it, it’s not to win the game, but I’d like to watch it,” Guillen said. “I don’t want that to win the game, but I don’t mind watching that.”

Guillen managed Thome when the Twins slugger was with the White Sox from 2006-09. During that time, Thome blasted his 500th career home run, which delivered a walk-off victory over the Angels.

Thome entered Friday’s game sitting just two home runs shy of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach the 600-home run mark. He also carried a nine-game hitting streak into the weekend, a stretch during which Thome hit two home runs and batted .424 with four doubles and seven RBIs. Thome was out of the starting lineup on Friday.

“Maybe my team wouldn’t say the same … they don’t want to give up the home run, but they would like to watch that because they love that guy here,” Guillen said. “He’s one guy I can say, whoever was on this ballclub when he was here, they will say the same stuff to you.

“If he hits it and we win, I’d like to see that.”

Walks not part of White Sox offense vs. Yanks

MINNEAPOLIS — It had been more than 40 years since the White Sox went four straight games without picking up a walk on offense until they did so this week while being swept by the Yankees in a four-game series.

The White Sox last went four games without a walk from Aug. 5-8, 1968. Since 1919, the club has never gone five straight games without a walk. Paul Konerko walked in the first inning of Friday’s game against the Twins to end the streak.

While he knows his team can be aggressive, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was surprised to learn that his team did not walk once against the Yankees. Still, he could understand how that might happen in a four-game sweep by New York.

Between the Yankees’ pitching and his team’s desire to get something going offensively to stop a losing streak, the White Sox did not take a single free pass in the series.

“Too aggressive, or a lot of strikes?” Guillen said. “When you throw strikes, you win four games. That’s exactly what it is, I always say that.”

Ozzie impressed with Humber despite loss

MINNEAPOLIS — Things have not gone Philip Humber’s way on the mound since the beginning of July, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen liked what he saw from him Thursday against the Yankees.

“He threw the ball great yesterday, very good,” Guillen said. “Especially with the way those guys were hitting.”

Over his last four starts, Humber has gone 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA, allowing 18 runs on 29 hits over 20 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .341 against Humber, and have struck out just 17 times in that span.

The best of those four outings was his last, when Humber went 6 1/3 innings with four runs allowed on five hits as the White Sox lost, 7-2, to the Yankees.

And while his overall numbers for the season are still impressive, at 124 innings, Humber is reaching the point at which the White Sox will have to start paying attention to his workload.

Over the last five years, Humber has totaled just 51 1/3 innings in the Majors, while tossing no more than 139 innings during a season in the Minors.

“We’re aware [that] this guy has never thrown 140 innings in the past,” Guillen said. “Minor League innings … that’s nothing. Minor League innings compared to big league innings, I think it’s doubled, because here you’ve got to grind it out every pitch.”

Konerko in lineup, but mobility limited

MINNEAPOLIS — Since being hit by a pitch on his left calf Sunday, mobility has been an issue for Paul Konerko, who returned to the lineup Thursday after missing three games.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen admitted he struggled with putting him in the lineup, knowing how much discomfort Konerko was dealing with.

“Konerko is a brave man,” Guillen said. “This guy is very sore, very sore. I’m just happy to have him in the lineup, because if you see him walk around — when he got the first ground ball [Thursday], I felt guilty, because I think good managers don’t play players like that.”

Konerko was in the lineup again Friday as the designated hitter, and could remain at DH through the weekend.

“I was guilty about seeing [Konerko] running the bases, he just barely can push his foot down,” Guillen said. “He said he’s fine. Well, if he said he’s fine, he’s playing.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blackburn’s gem gives Twins series win

June 16, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — A lot of people will tell you that good pitching, or hitting, can be contagious. Nick Blackburn is not one of them.

Over the last four games, the performance of the Twins’ pitching staff might suggest otherwise. It was another fast-paced pitchers’ duel at Target Field on Thursday — the fourth in a row — and once again, the Twins came out on top, with a 1-0 victory.

Thanks to a solo home run by Michael Cuddyer and eight shutout innings from Blackburn, the Twins swept the rain-shortened series against the White Sox. Twins closer Matt Capps also pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save since June 6 and his ninth of the season.

“Blackie was a great story today, threw the heck out of the ball,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Good sinker, slider, he had it all — changeup — working. … A heck of a game.”

Blackburn followed up dominant performances by Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano with one of his own. The right-hander scattered seven hits over eight scoreless innings of work, with one strikeout, a walk and a hit batter. He needed just 95 pitches to get through eight, before the Twins called upon the bullpen to close out the game.

One of the keys for Blackburn was the aggressiveness of the White Sox at the plate, which he used to his advantage.

“No one is up there trying to work the count too much, a lot of first-pitch swingers and guys who kind of put it into play early in the at-bat,” Blackburn said. “When everything’s coming out of my hand pretty well, that can sometimes play into my advantage.”

After Baker allowed one run in a complete game on Saturday, Liriano followed by giving up one run over eight innings while flirting with both a perfect game and no-hitter on Sunday. Pavano followed with another complete game on Wednesday night, and Blackburn continued the trend with his performance.

Over the last four games, Twins starters have allowed just three runs over 34 innings of work, posting a 4-0 record with a 0.79 ERA. Blackburn improved to 6-4 on the season, while lowering his own ERA to 3.16.

Minnesota entered the game with a Major League-leading 1.94 ERA in June, and lowered it to 1.80 with Thursday’s shutout of the White Sox.

“It kind of reminds you of ’06 — that run that we had in ’06 where you felt like you were going to win,” Cuddyer said. “You felt like, no matter what, you were going to win the game. And all that is, is just confidence.

“You get that confidence and you start feeling like you can win every game, and that’s kind of how we feel right now.”

During that 2006 run, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen dubbed the Twins the “piranhas,” because they just kept coming after opposing teams again and again with bloopers and infield singles — with players like Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto and Luis Castillo.

Asked about what the 2011 Twins were, if the 2006 club was the piranhas, Guillen had a new label for the current Minnesota ballclub, which featured a speedy center fielder and two quick infielders batting 1-2-3 in Thursday’s lineup.

“These are the little sardines here,” Guillen said. “They are sardines … but they can play. That kid who is the leadoff guy … pretty good. When you’re missing [Justin] Morneau, [Joe] Mauer, [Jim] Thome and [Jason] Kubel and you’re still winning games, you have to give those guys credit.

“They never sit back and say ‘We’re missing the big boys.’ They continue to play. That’s the reason Gardy is the most underrated manager. … I think Gardy makes those guys play, and play right. He gets the most out of his players, and they will be in the pennant race.”

Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka made his first start for the Twins since suffering a fractured left fibula on April 7 in New York, batting third behind Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla. Nishioka went 1-for-4 at the plate, singling in the eighth — while showing excellent range in the field and improved arm strength, though he was also credited with a sixth-inning error.

Leading off the bottom of the second inning, Cuddyer crushed a 2-2 fastball from lefty Mark Buehrle into the bullpen in left-center field. It was Cuddyer’s 10th home run of the season and his 27th RBI.

Buehrle gave up just the one run on three hits — two by Cuddyer — in seven innings, but took the loss.

In his career against Buehrle, Cuddyer is batting .344 with three home runs. His 33 hits are the most for Cuddyer against any pitcher. Cuddyer is batting .340 with five doubles, seven home runs, 22 RBIs and 11 walks in his last 28 games, dating back to May 14.

“I feel good right now,” Cuddyer said. “It’s all cyclical, you’ve got to ride those good times out. Right now is a good time — and fortunately, we were able to get wins to go along with it.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Indians beat 4/23

April 23, 2011 Comments off

Hannahan embracing his return home

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — If anyone was more disappointed about Friday’s rainout than Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan, they were probably one of the hundreds of family and friends that came to watch him play.Hannahan, a 31-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native, is playing in the Twin Cities this weekend for just the second time since he was drafted out of the University of Minnesota in 2001. With more than 100 friends and family expected for each game, Hannahan ran into a little more trouble getting tickets at Target Field than at the Twins’ old ballpark, the Metrodome.”Any chance I get to come home and play in front of my family and friends and sleep in my own bed, it’s nice,” Hannahan said. “From growing up here and going to high school and college here, a lot of coaches, friends and relatives are coming out.”

Hannahan last faced the Twins in 2009 in Oakland. His last games at the Metrodome came on Aug. 18-19, 2008, when Hannahan went 2-for-8 with a double and an RBI in the series.

While they didn’t get to play Friday, Hannahan made sure his teammates got a taste of the Twin Cities in the clubhouse. A few hours before the game’s scheduled start, Hannahan had “Juicy Lucy” cheeseburgers brought in from Shamrock’s in St. Paul, a Twin Cities specialty.

While others claim to have invented the burger with cheese inside the patty rather than on top, Hannahan says Shamrock’s makes them the best, though he may be a little biased.

“I got the boys locked in on it,” Hannahan said. “I usually do it anytime I come in here. I tell these guys it’s the best Juicy Lucy they’ll ever taste, so I always bring in 30 of them.

“Mikey Runyon and Teddy Casper, who I graduated with at Cretin, they own it. They always hook me up and bring it in for the boys.”

As Hannahan referenced, he attended high school at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, which also is the alma mater of Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

While Hannahan’s teammates, especially the pitching staff, may be glad to see Mauer out of the lineup this weekend, it’s a bit disappointing for Hannahan that he won’t get to see a familiar face behind the plate when he goes to bat.

“We never played together, but I graduated with Billy, his middle brother, and then Jake was a year older than me, so I played with those guys growing up,” Hannahan said. “I haven’t talked to Joe since I’ve been home, but we text throughout the year and I get to see him in the offseason.

“Hopefully he can heal up. I heard he’s pretty banged up, but Joey’s a tough guy. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back out on the field soon.”

Acta expects Central foes to make a run

MINNEAPOLIS — By the end of the season, the first-place Indians and last-place Twins very well could switch places in the American League Central standings.

At the very least, Indians manager Manny Acta expects the Twins — and the White Sox and Tigers — to figure things out and make a run at some point.

“Absolutely,” Acta said. “Those teams, they’ve done it in the past. Some of them made additions in the offseason and it’s still very early. A lot of the guys that are struggling right now are not going to struggle the whole year, and vice versa.”

Still, it would seem that the Indians have an opportunity this weekend at Target Field to take advantage of a Twins squad that isn’t playing up to its potential early on in the season.

Acta doesn’t necessarily see it that way, but he likes the way his team is playing so far. In order to stay at the top, he knows they’ll have to continue to play consistently at the same level, while the young players on the team continue to improve.

“You can’t compare yourself to others, you’ve just got to continue to get better yourself and see where that takes you,” Acta said.

One thing Acta does not want to discuss is what constitutes a “good start.” The way he sees it, with how long the baseball season is, if the Indians played poorly over the next few weeks or month, that could become a “bad start” to the season.

What does matter is where the Indians are in the standings at the end of the season.

“It doesn’t make any sense if we go out next month and have the same type of month the other way around that we’re having right now,” Acta said.

“To me, it’s playing consistent baseball throughout the year. It’s a long season. Would you want to go over and ask the Rockies if they would rather have a good April in 2007 and not win the 21 out of 22 that they won to go to the World Series? You think they would trade that? The World Series for starting 7-0 in April and then not making the playoffs?”

Acta very impressed with Gordon’s defense

MINNEAPOLIS — After their 3-2 loss on Thursday to the Royals, defense was a topic of discussion for the Indians. In particular, the notable difference in the outcomes of the throws by Royals center fielder Melky Cabrera and Indians left fielder Michael Brantley.

Whereas Cabrera managed an excellent throw to retire Indians catcher Carlos Santana at the plate to save a run, Brantley had trouble getting a grip on the wet ball, allowing Mitch Maier to score and tie the game.

Had it not been for the defense of Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, however, the Indians may have come away with a sweep, rather than splitting the series in Kansas City.

In the Indians’ 5-4 loss Tuesday, Gordon had a diving grab in the ninth to save a run and preserve the Royals’ one-run victory. Thursday night, Gordon had another defensive gem in left field and also made a diving grab at first base for an inning-ending double play in the ninth, to save at least one more run.

“He might have saved more than two runs [Thursday night],” Acta said. “He not only saved runs there, he turned that into an out. He played tremendous defense in that series.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.