MINNEAPOLIS -- Having bolstered their bullpen for the September stretch drive, the Minnesota Twins will soon find out whether they're strong enough to push for another postseason berth.
The Twins announced their signing of left-handed reliever Ron Mahay before Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers, when Mahay and recently acquired righty Jon Rauch were in uniform for the first time. Manager Ron Gardenhire was in a good mood before the game, his confidence in protecting late-inning leads increased with the addition of two veterans.
Once Mahay and Rauch have taken the mound, the Twins will have used a team-record 24 pitchers this year, one more than the previous high established in 1989. Injuries and unexpected inconsistency on the staff have forced a series of call-ups, exposing depleted depth at the top minor league levels. So general manager Bill Smith and his brain trust have responded.
"The guys upstairs are understanding and watching. We know how much we really had to go through our system, and they realize that," Gardenhire said. "They've been searching, and they've been trying the whole time. Finally a couple things got done. Hopefully it'll help us out."
The Twins have a four-time All-Star closer in Joe Nathan and reliable setup men in Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares, but they've been overworked and the rest of the group has been in constant flux, struggling to get outs when called on. The ravaged rotation has exacerbated this weakness, because going to the bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning has become routine this season for Gardenhire.
The manager met with Rauch and Mahay before Saturday's game and told them to be ready for any role.
"You never know how we're going to use you," Gardenhire said. "It can be anywhere from the sixth through the ninth, and it could be in the fourth inning if we decide that's necessary, too. So they're ready for action."
Rauch came in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mahay was released by the Kansas City Royals, and he last pitched -- coincidentally -- against the Twins a week ago. The 38-year-old had a 4.79 ERA in 41 appearances.
"It's tough playing when you're out of the hunt," Mahay said. "Any time you can be on a team [in contention], that's always exciting."
Knuckleballing reliever R.A. Dickey was designated for assignment to make room for Mahay on the 40-man roster. Dickey was sent to the minors earlier this month.
The Twins started Saturday in second place in the AL Central, 4½ games behind the Detroit Tigers. Their veterans have expressed frustration in the lack of front-office action to enhance the roster in recent years, and they were outspoken in their desire for help last month.
"We just want everybody to fight and be on the same page," Nathan said, adding: "Seeing Bill do these moves and bring some guys in that he thinks can help us out, it's nice to see."
Nathan said he hopes the addition of Rauch and Mahay will add energy to the clubhouse, as well as help for the bullpen.
"Kind of pick us up, who might have gotten a little flat and gotten a little tired," Nathan said.