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Twins putting priority on winning in the future

Tough first half has club listening to offers as it looks to stockpile talent

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins held steady through the first three months of the season, mostly sitting just below .500, which was better than many projected coming into the season.

They were able to weather a 10-game losing streak in May, but over the last two weeks, the bottom has fallen out for the Twins, who enter the All-Star break having lost 12 of their last 15 games.

The Twins were able to take two out of three against the Yankees in New York to end the first half, but Minnesota still sits 14 games under .500, which sets the club up as sellers yet again in July.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan hasn't been shy about saying he'll listen on offers on any of the club's players because of their recent struggles, as he wants to build a winning roster instead of simply playing better baseball in the second half with the Twins essentially out of the race.

"We're not into respectability -- we're into winning," Ryan said. "If you're just talking about finishing the year on a positive note, I don't think so. We're talking about winning and getting into the postseason. That's more important than trying to polish something up."

Their main problem has been pitching, as their combined 4.43 ERA ranks second to last in the Majors behind the Astros. It's been even worse for the starting pitchers, who have combined for a Major League-worst 5.23 ERA, while the bullpen has held up its end with a respectable 3.18 ERA that ranks tied for eighth in the Majors.

And their offense, which was expected to be their strong suit, hasn't held up its end of the bargain, as the Twins rank 10th in the American League in runs scored, with 379.

"We have not had a run yet where we've really got going offensively and pitching-wise at the same time," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've had our moments with both, but it just hasn't clicked. We have people. You have it up and down the lineup. We know we can score runs. But we haven't put it together. We haven't really had a run where we've put together five, six, seven runs a game and our pitchers have gone deep into games. It's all about getting a group together and doing the same things."

First-half awards
MVP: Joe Mauer Mauer is an All-Star for the sixth time and remains one of the game's best catchers.  
Cy Young: Kevin Correia Correia hasn't been an ace but has been the club's most consistent starter.
Rookie: Oswaldo Arcia Arcia was just optioned to Triple-A but has provided power at the plate.
Top reliever: Glen Perkins Perkins has emerged as one of the game's best closers and is a first-time All-Star.

The club's recent rut led to speculation about Gardenhire's job status, as a prominent columnist in the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote that it was time for the Twins and Gardenhire to part ways.

But Ryan affirmed that Gardenhire will remain the club's manager -- a position he's held since 2002, which makes him the second-longest tenured skipper in the big leagues behind the Angels' Mike Scioscia.

"There's no validity to it," Ryan said. "He and I are the leadership of this organization, and we take accountability. He is basically in the clubhouse and in the dugout, and I'm in charge of the whole operation, and we both are feeling like we're letting the people down. It's as simple as that."

Gardenhire, though, admitted that the club's recent struggles have weighed on him, but he thinks his club is capable of playing better in the second half.

"I believe we can run off a 10-game winning streak just like we ran off a 10-game losing streak," Gardenhire said. "It would be a lot of fun to turn this thing around and that's what my goal is."

But it could be difficult for the Twins if they decide to be heavy sellers before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

Closer Glen Perkins, who is an All-Star for the first time in his career, is a hot commodity on the trade market, while players such as Justin Morneau, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia could draw interest. Outfielder Josh Willingham could've been a candidate, but he is out until August after having surgery to fix a torn meniscus in his left knee.

But the Twins appear likely to hang onto Perkins. Morneau could be the biggest piece dealt before the Deadline, as he's in the final year of his contract.

Players to watch in second half
Justin Morneau Will the first baseman finish the season with the Twins or will he be dealt to a contender?  
Kyle Gibson Will the rookie right-hander develop into an effective starter in the second half?  
Aaron Hicks Can Hicks continue to show improvements after his slow start to the season?

"If somebody overwhelms you with something, you've got to listen," Ryan said. "There's no question. You can't just say no."

So for now, the Twins will continue to hope to see improvements from their young players such as Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee, Pedro Florimon and Kyle Gibson in the second half of the year. They even shook up their roster after their last game on Sunday, optioning Parmelee, Arcia and Eduardo Escobar to Triple-A Rochester.

But while the Twins are clearly trying to set up for the future, Gardenhire said it's important for the club to play better baseball than they've been showing in recent weeks.

"I understand the situation having so many kids on the roster, but my job is to win games, and we haven't been able to do that," Gardenhire said. "That's my job, trying to figure it out. As long as they keep me here, that's my job."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
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