MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Twins have been out of the AL Central race for quite a while, a season that started with such high hopes fading quickly thanks to injuries and poor performances.
They want to turn their eyes to the future as quickly as possible, and it was easy to see when they trotted out a starting lineup Tuesday night with three players making their major league debuts.
Liam Hendriks pitched seven strong innings and Chris Parmelee picked up two hits in Minnesota's 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Hendriks, Parmelee and Joe Benson all were in Double-A New Britain when the week started and were activated prior to the game, giving the downtrodden team a fresh-faced feel as it limps to a disappointing finish.
Hendriks (0-1) allowed three runs and four hits. Parmelee had hits in his first two at-bats in the bigs and Benson showed off some of his speed and hustle, but the Twins lost for the 14th time in 17 games.
"I thought the kids showed up and got after it pretty good," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Jake Peavy (7-7) struck out a season-high nine in 6 1-3 innings and Alex Rios homered for the White Sox, who have won eight of their last nine against the Twins after dropping the first six games in the season series.
There was a time when the Twins owned the White Sox, going 29-7 against them in a stretch that included six straight victories to open 2011. But the wheels have come off for a Twins team that expected to contend for a third straight division title.
Calling up Hendriks, Parmelee and Benson gave the Twins three players in the starting lineup making their major league debuts for the first time in franchise history, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. The moves were necessary with so many players banged up, including Justin Morneau (concussion symptoms), Michael Cuddyer (wrist), Denard Span (concussion), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (oblique) and Jason Kubel (foot).
Benson coaxed a walk out of his first at-bat and impressed Gardenhire with a takeout slide to break up a double play. But he also misplayed Alejandro De Aza's fly ball to center in the fifth inning, diving for it and letting it get past him for a triple. Morel followed with a single to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead.
"A line drive coming right at me, you've got to knock that ball down," Benson said.
Hendriks said he was a little nervous at the start, but felt he found a groove and settled in after striking out A.J. Pierzynski to end the first inning.
"This is an audition," said Hendriks, who needed to start with Scott Baker, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano all struggling with injuries. "Hopefully I can keep doing well and we'll see what happens from there. There's a lot of guys hurt. I'm not expecting to be in the lineup next year, but we'll see how it goes."
Parmelee had a sharp single to center field in the second inning and added another one in the fourth. He struck out and grounded out in his final two at-bats.
"I'm here, I'm going to learn and listen to everything the veterans have to say," Parmelee said. "When I get in there, I'm going to play 100 percent. That's about it."
The Twins were shut out for the 12th time this season, tied a season high with 14 strikeouts and have managed just two runs in their last four games. They trail the Tigers by 22 games in the Central and were officially eliminated from the playoff race on Tuesday night.
"It hasn't been a good year," Gardenhire said. "We've struggled. We all know that. But it's fun to see the kids come up here. But I'd like to see our veterans back out on the field, too."
NOTES: The Twins said Justin Morneau will go through early batting practice on Wednesday to test his concussion symptoms. Even though he is not on the DL, he will have to get approval from Major League Baseball before being cleared to return to the field. When he does, Morneau will only DH and not play 1B. ... The last team to debut at least three players in the starting lineup on the same day was the San Diego Padres, when they had four in 1986. ... The last time three Twins made their big league debuts in the same game was April 7, 1999, against Toronto, when Joe Mays, Dan Perkins and Mike Lincoln all came out of the bullpen. ... RHP Carl Pavano (7-11, 4.60) takes the mound in the series finale on Wednesday night against White Sox LHP John Danks (6-10, 4.01). Danks is just 2-7 on the road this season, the fourth-lowest winning percentage in the majors. But he's 6-2 with a 2.85 ERA over his last 12 starts after starting the season 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA. Pavano is 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts against the Sox this year. He's given up an AL-high 221 hits this season and has allowed nine or more in eight of his last nine starts.