Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/9/12

The Minnesota Twins pull into the All-Star break playing reasonably good baseball and within spitting distance of first-place Chicago in the AL Central, 11 games out with roughly half a season left. The fact that they have rallied from such a deficit in recent memory bolsters confidence of a team digging itself out of a 6-16 April.

"We dug ourselves a pretty deep hole, but we're playing better," All-Star catcher Joe Mauer said. "You look at the standings and obviously we'd like to be closer than that, but I can recall times we've won the division when we've been 10 (games) back, you know? We've obviously been playing better, and hopefully we continue to get better."

The 2006 Twins were 11 games behind at this time of the season and rallied to win the Central by a game. In 2009, they were seven out on Sept. 6 and won the division in a one-game playoff against Detroit. So deficits don't intimidate the Twins, who point to a 26-23 record since May 16 as proof they are righting the ship. Slowly, yes, but surely.

"We've still got half a season," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "You play well, you still have a chance."

The situation is more complex than that, though. Put simply, Minnesota's starting pitching has been such a disaster that failure seems inevitable. In a 4-3, 10-inning loss at Texas on Saturday, the Twins used their AL-high 11th starting pitcher of the season, right-hander Samuel Deduno.

Righty Carl Pavano, their best pitcher over the past three seasons, is on the DL with shoulder problems and won't be ready any time soon. Righty P.J. Walters, a six-year minor-league free agent who has the team's only complete game this season, also is on the DL, though due back after the break. They're hoping lefty Brian Duensing can regain his 2009-10 form as a starter, but he's 0-3 since rejoining the rotation.

Only rookie left-hander Scott Diamond (7-3, 2.62 ERA) and lefty Francisco Liriano (3-2 with a 2.74 ERA since May 30) are healthy and throwing well. If you were general manager Terry Ryan, would you add help at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, or punt?

"If you're asking me if we're sellers or we're buyers," Ryan said recently, "I'm not going to put out flatly what we're doing. But obviously I'm keeping an eye on exactly what people's needs are and where we're headed."

Ryan also is acutely aware that last season's team pulled within five games of first place just after the All-Star break only to lose 99 games in the team's second-worst season since moving to Minnesota in 1961 -- and the 2011 team had much better pitching.

So while Mauer (.326, five HR, 41 RBI) and Morneau (.247, 11 HR, 37 RBI) are finally healthy and playing every day, and LF Josh Willingham (team-leading 59 RBI) and Trevor Plouffe have combined for 38 home runs, the 2012 Twins seem to be fighting a losing battle. And if Ryan believes that, expect impending free agents such as Liriano and right-hander Matt Capps, and maybe even center fielder Denard Span, to be exchanged for pieces that could add up to a respectable rotation for a 2013 run.

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