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With rotation in flux, bullpen usage key

May goes three innings in spot start for injured Hughes

MINNEAPOLIS -- When starter Phil Hughes' back flared up earlier this week, the Twins were put in a less-than-ideal situation. Already needing a starter for Saturday's game, they decided to tap into the bullpen in Friday's 6-1 loss to the Indians, opting to start Trevor May.

May began the season as a starter but hadn't thrown more than 30 pitches in a game since moving to the bullpen in early July, so manager Paul Molitor wanted to a put 50-pitch limit on him.

May brushed right up against that, finishing the third inning with 49 pitches on Friday. He gave up two runs in his outing, both coming on a home run to Giovanny Urshela.

The bullpen game comes a day before the Twins will start a rookie and two days before Tommy Milone will return from the disabled list -- possibly with a pitch limit of his own.

Tyler Duffey will make his second career start Saturday. Duffey was called up to pitch Aug. 5 so the Twins could avoid a bullpen game. Instead, he surrendered six runs in two innings to the Blue Jays in his first start. Duffey responded well in his return to Triple-A Rochester, but because the Twins don't know what they'll get from him, managing the bullpen is key this weekend.

As expected, Molitor used long reliever J.R. Graham after May on Friday, and Graham lasted 2 1/3. The Twins also got two innings from A.J. Achter, one from Brian Duensing and two-thirds of an inning from Michael Tonkin, who was called up Friday when Blaine Boyer was placed on the disabled list.

"We were able to stay away from a couple guys. The pitching kind of went as I thought it might. I was hoping to get six out of the first two guys," Molitor said. "We should be OK. Obviously Tyler is hoping for a little better outing than last time, hopefully get extended a little bit. Maybe not quite as nervous as last week."

The Twins have carried an eight-man bullpen for a large part of the season. Before May returned to the rotation, the Twins had nine relievers, so if Duffey's start is cut short, they will still be in a relatively good position, all things considered.

As for May, he will make at least one more start in place of Hughes. Next time around, he thinks he'll be able to go even further into the game.

"I felt good. There [were] no physical problems," May said. "It didn't feel much different than I did my last start, so that's encouraging."

Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for
Read More: Minnesota Twins, J.R. Graham, Trevor May