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The Sports Xchange, Published May 30 2013

Attrition has cast Twins' Carroll into bigger role

Veteran Jamey Carroll is seeing a lot of playing time lately. He started the season as the team's backup utility infielder, but due to injury and ineffectiveness of other players, his role has grown and he has even become the team's leadoff hitter.

Carroll came to the Twins as a free agent for the 2012 season after playing for five teams in 10 years. As a 39-year-old, the Twins weren't planning for him to play every day, but lately that has been the case.

He started out the season as a backup, but that changed as the Twins have struggled. On opening day, Aaron Hicks batted leadoff but struggled mightily. Reserve outfielder Darin Mastroianni filled in but reinjured his ankle and recently had surgery. Second baseman Brian Dozier took over and was serviceable early but has struggled of late. Carroll played some second base for Dozier and since May 15 has taken over the leadoff spot.

"Jamey is swinging better, and Dozier is fighting his way through it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's just the way it is. We're trying to win ballgames. We did enough losing, so the guys who are playing the best are going to be in there."

In his first game as leadoff batter, Carroll went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a double. Since that game, he is batting .282 with an OBP of .333 -- not great leadoff numbers but better than the team had been getting elsewhere.

In the last five games of the current road trip, however, Carroll has gone 2-for-23 (.090), and the 39-year-old may be in need of a rest. On Monday, Dozier returned to the lineup (going 3-for-5), which moved Carroll to third base -- but Carroll remained at leadoff.

Carroll continued his great fielding at third base in two games against the Brewers, but, given his age, he is not likely to keep producing all season in the No. 1 spot. But as Gardenhire said, the Twins will go with the hot hand.

Twins team report

RECORD: 22-28

STREAK: Won three

PAST 10 GAMES: 4-6

NEXT: Brewers (Kyle Lohse, 1-5, 3.76) at Twins (P.J. Walters, 1-0, 3.00)

Player notes

• RHP P.J. Walters is trying to solidify a spot in the rotation, which has been plagued by inconsistency much of the season. He's coming off a solid outing in his first appearance since being recalled from the minor leagues, allowing two runs on eight hits in six innings in winning at Detroit. Walters has yet to win at Target Field, going 0-4 with a 7.27 ERA in six starts at the Twins' home park.

• C Joe Mauer started at designated hitter after going 0-for-5 and catching all 14 innings in Tuesday's win at Milwaukee. Starting in Mauer's place behind the plate was Chris Herrmann, who had caught starting pitcher Samuel Deduno when the two were playing at Triple-A Rochester.

• SS Trevor Plouffe was taken off the seven-day concussion list and ready to play but was scratched from the starting lineup after suffering a cramp in his left calf while running sprints before the game. He took a knee to the head on May 21 in Atlanta while trying to break up a double play. He'll be evaluated before Thursday's series finale against the Brewers. To make room for Plouffe on the roster, the Twins optioned INF Chris Collabello to Triple-A Rochester. Collabello had a single in 11 at-bats during his first stint as a major-leaguer.

• OF Darrin Mastrioanni, who had surgery to repair bone chips in his left leg, had the cast removed Wednesday and will begin wearing a walking boot. Mastrioanni had hoped to be back before the All-Star Break but was recently transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

• 1B Justin Morneau, who has had difficulty staying healthy the past few years because of a variety of injuries, missed just his second game of the season when he did not start Wednesday. A year ago, Morneau missed 16 of the first 50 games, including 14 in a row to start the month of May. The Twins lost 10 of those games that Morneau missed and were 18-32, on their way to a 96-loss season. The Twins are 22-28, thanks in large part to Morneau's team-leading 34 RBIs.

Quote to note

"They're working a lot. I felt pretty good, I'm pretty happy (to give them a rest)." -- RHP Samuel Deduno, who limited the Brewers to four hits in seven-plus innings Wednesday.