Inexperienced pitchers in spotlight for Twins against Indians (Jun 17, 2017)

BY AP • June 17, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing a big four-game weekend series, the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins were waiting to announce their starters for Saturday's split doubleheader.

Many roster and lineup constructions were being mulled before decisions were announced. Minnesota wasn't even ready to announced its roster moves to make room for Saturday's Game 1 starter, Adam Wilk, as of Friday night.

As the two teams battle for the lead in the American League Central, pitching is bound to be an important facet.

Cleveland had one of its best starters, Carlos Carrasco, lined up for Friday and veteran Trevor Bauer planned for Sunday. The Twins are scrambling. Their top two pitchers, Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, pitched during the week against Seattle.

Between Friday's starter, Nik Turley, and Saturday's duo of Wilk and Adalberto Mejia, the trio have a total of 12 total major league starts heading into the weekend.

"We talked about shaping up the rotation a couple of weeks ago and I didn't think we'd be running the guys out there that we are, at that point a couple weeks back," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "It's reality. The first three starters in this (series) probably have less than 15 starts in the big leagues, I think, roughly. But yeah, you're hoping that Turley, we saw him tonight, and tomorrow we'll get a look at Wilk and hopefully Mejia will bounce back from a not-so-good outing last time, as well."

Wilk (0-1, 6.75 ERA) will start Saturday's opener followed by Mejia (1-2, 5.75). The Indians will recall left-hander Ryan Merritt to make his season debut in the first game with Mike Clevinger (2-3, 4.09) being recalled as the 26th man to start the nightcap.

The Twins lead the Indians by one game in the Central heading into Saturday following Friday's 8-1 win by Cleveland, with Carrasco providing the expected pitching performance from his side and Turley struggling in his second major league start.

"Those guys went out there and got some runs, so the only thing we had to do as a pitching staff is come in there and throw up zeroes on the board," Carrasco said of Friday's win. "That's what we try to do every game. That's what we're here for."

Minnesota has held at least a share of the Central lead since May 11. The Indians are hoping to break through with the long series. Saturday's second game is a makeup of a rainout on April 19.

"It's one game, but it's the start of a lot of baseball this weekend, and I thought we played a good game tonight," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after Friday's win. "So we'll try to rest up and we've got a lot of good baseball tomorrow. Instead of worrying about it, show up and enjoy playing a lot of baseball."

Minnesota is hoping to find some kind of consistency from its starters behind Santana and Berrios. Even Sunday starter Kyle Gibson (4-4, 6.79) was sent to Triple-A earlier this season due to performance.

"Opportunity," Molitor said of how he sees his rotation. "Someone's hopefully going to step up and get hot. Get hot and realize that not only that we're in a little bit of need for a little more depth in the rotation, in terms of competitiveness and consistency. Gibson has done a few things better. Last time was a little rough.

"But if I was young and saw what was going on here, and I was a starting pitcher, I'd be hungry."

Wilk has one career appearance against Cleveland, giving up two runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief on May 14. Merritt has one scoreless inning in his only appearance against the Twins. Clevinger has three starts against Minnesota, with an 0-1 record and 4.26 ERA.

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