Thursday, May 10, 2007

Options Aren't Optional

Ron Gardenhire feels a little restrained right now, and he doesn’t like it. He kept talking about “options” before Thursday’s game, and how he doesn’t have many. And for a major-league manager, that’s not a good thing.

The bench was never especially deep to begin with, but Mike Redmond has essentially been a regular for a month, even before Joe Mauer got hurt. Jason Tyner was supposed to be a plug-in guy, filling in all over to give people rest, but he’s played 23 of 33 games.

Meanwhile, Luis Rodriguez is hitting .171 and Josh Rabe is at .194. Chris Heintz is the second-string catcher, and Gardenhire is leery of using both catchers.

So he has no options. And it must feel like wearing a straightjacket on the bench.

“Right now, pickings off the bench is pretty tough,” he admitted before another shutout on Thursday. “Come off the bench and get a hit -- we don’t have guys used to that stuff.”

The manager knows that help from outside the organization is unlikely, and that’s why he is so eager to bring Lew Ford back to the big leagues. Ford hit only .226 last year, and the chances of him reclaiming his usefulness has to be considered only moderate.

But Gardenhire at least wants the option. Other than runs, it’s what he wants more than anything these days.

-- Phil Miller