I feel sorry for Ron Gardenhire.
In addition to having three key starters on the disabled list, he's seen multiple minor injuries pop up in recent days, depleting an already short-handed bench. Backups have failed to produce, and -- more significantly -- so have most of the starters who have managed to evade injury or illness.
Beyond all that, the starting pitcher he'd hoped would develop into a dominant ace has completely derailed. Gardy is trying to preserve the few late-inning leads his team gives him with a patchwork bullpen, morphing constantly as players shuttle in and out from the minors.
After playing three cold-weather games in two days, all humiliating blowout losses in front of a cranky home crowd, the manager now must lead his beleaguered club to Kansas City, where they'll open a nine-game road trip. His pitching staff has seemingly forgotten how to throw strikes and his relievers have been run into the ground.
As for Gardenhire's best player, his $23 million franchise centerpiece? Still no timetable for Joe Mauer's return. The words "improving" and "progress" have been uttered repeatedly by all involved, but edgy fans can be excused for their skepticism considering how many times those buzzwords were invoked throughout Justin Morneau's eight-month recovery from a concussion.
Gardy and Mauer have generally evaded questions about the specific nature of this mysterious ailment, and I'm willing to believe it's because they -- along with team doctors -- genuinely have no clue what's going on. No one can come up with a rational explanation as to why the 28-year-old catcher still has no strength in his legs four months after undergoing an allegedly minor knee procedure that wasn't even deemed necessary until the offseason was two months old.
Mauer has never been a leader in an traditional sense -- the vocal clubhouse force who steps up and takes bullets in the media at the team's low points. But in the past, at least he's been there. This year, the frazzled face of the franchise has been conspicuously absent, leaving Gardenhire to take on the full wrath of reporters who are dutifully pressing for answers on behalf of a concerned public.
Like I said, I don't envy the Twins' skipper right now.