Injuries have wreaked havoc on the Twins' already-thin bench and even thinner outfield depth, and it shows in Friday's starting lineup. TwinkieTown has learned that, with Sam Fuld, Aaron Hicks, Josh Willingham, and Oswaldo Arcia all unavailable, tonight's starters will be Jason Kubel in left, a cardboard cutout of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in center, and Darwin, Minnesota's Twine Ball in right.
"It's not our preference, obviously," said manager Ron Gardenhire, "But you play with the hand you're dealt, and we just hope these inanimate objects can step up."
The manager's preference to keep 13 pitchers on the 25-man roster spurred the decision to go with things that aren't people in the outfield.
"We get another short start out of one of our guys, I'm going to need to have all hands on deck out there and still have the flexibility to play the lefty-lefty, righty-righty match-ups," Gardenhire said.
The cardboard Earnhardt was found in a dumpster behind a liquor store near the team's hotel in suburban Detroit, and had previously been used as promotional material for "The Motor City's Best Price On Budweiser, Guaranteed" sale. The Darwin twine ball, which is the world's largest ball of twine rolled by one man, was shipped overnight. Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said he knows it's unconventional, but has confidence in Gardenhire and his coaches.
"Would we rather have people out there than just things? Of course. But our coaching staff is working around the clock to get these pieces of matter game-ready and using a hot glue gun to adhere gloves and bats to them."
Current plans call for Kubel to move the Dale Jr. cutout depending on the shift that's called for before running back to left. The giant twine ball will just be placed in right field as it weighs literally thousands of pounds. Antony says it is not appreciably less mobile than Arcia or Chris Colabello, but "a real pain in the butt" to move from the field to the dugout.
Offensively, Gardenhire thinks that both the fake NASCAR driver and the roadside attraction will respond positively to the more patient, pitch-taking approach stressed by hitting coach Tom Brunansky. "They don't have functioning arms, and can't swing bats."
Neither object is on the 40-man roster. Further moves to make room for them will be announced later today.