The Twins might not be a part of the American League playoff race, but they contend that they have plenty of work to do this season.
Ron Gardenhire's club is relishing the role of spoiler, and Minnesota has recorded three wins in the first five games of a six-game swing that takes the Twins through division-leading Detroit and second-place Cleveland.
"We're on a really tough trip," Gardenhire said. "We're going through Detroit and Cleveland, who are battling each other for this division. We owe it to the rest of baseball to give it everything we have, which we do every game, but definitely the atmosphere is different.
"You're talking about teams that are in a pennant race. Our guys get excited about this stuff, and some of our young kids are kind of getting a feel of what it's like to be in a pennant race."
It is a role the Twins are embracing, though they would certainly prefer to be in the postseason hunt.
"Unfortunately, that's going to be the role this year. It was the role last year," outfielder Josh Willingham said. "You play teams that are in the playoff run … to hopefully beat them when it matters. I guess that's the second-best thing, instead of being in it.
"You'd rather be in it, but if you can beat somebody when it matters, that's good, too."
On Sunday, the Twins will attempt to claim the rubber match of their series with the Indians, who are among a cluster of teams vying for one of the two AL Wild Card spots.
Cleveland pushed starter Scott Kazmir back a day to give the southpaw extra rest. Kazmir (7-6, 4.39 ERA) has made 22 starts this season after pitching in just one big league game the previous two years. He has logged 103 2/3 innings between the Majors, Minors, Independent League and winter ball.
"I think he feels like he's been pitching for two straight years," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "He's a little tired, so we want to just give him an extra day when we can."
Mike Pelfrey (5-10, 5.19 ERA) is slated to take the hill for the Twins.
Twins: Mauer eyeing return
Joe Mauer hopes to return to the lineup in time for next weekend's series in Texas. The catcher has been sidelined since Monday with concussion-like symptoms. He went on the seven-day concussion disabled list last Tuesday and plans to join the Twins for the club's three-game set against the Royals beginning Tuesday at Target Field.
Gardenhire stressed that Mauer must be cleared before he can play, even after his seven-day stint is over.
"I think Joe wants to be a little more conservative," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "If he doesn't do anything for a few days, it increases the chance that there aren't any symptoms when he does start up again."
Indians: Raburn aching
• For the 13th time in 16 games, Ryan Raburn was out of the starting lineup on Saturday due to a right calf injury. He also felt pain in his left foot and Achilles tendon when he hit a home run last Sunday. Raburn underwent an MRI exam on Saturday. The results showed inflammation, but no structural damage.
Raburn is hoping to avoid a trip to the DL.
"I can probably play through a lot of this stuff, but if it sets me back again, I just don't want to put the team in a bad spot," Raburn said.
• Veteran right-hander Brett Myers surrendered three runs (one earned) on three hits with one wild pitch in one-third of an inning in a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron on Saturday.
• In three starts against the Twins this season, Kazmir has posted a 2-0 record and 1.42 ERA, with 17 strikeouts in 19 innings.
• In two outings against the Indians this year, Pelfrey is 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA, with 12 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.