Down is up in AL Central with Indians and Royals

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Star catcher Joe Mauer is on the disabled list with leg problems, second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka is out with a broken leg and slugger Justin Morneau is hitting just .208 while working his way back from a concussion that caused him to miss the last three months of last season.

Joe Nathan has struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery and lost his role as closer, and the Twins are hitting a paltry .230 and have scored fewer runs (50) and hit fewer homers (5) than any team in the majors.

“We haven’t played great yet, but we believe we have a chance to be a pretty good team,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “For sure, we’ve got to start hitting and start to score runs. That’ll take some pressure off our pitching.”

The Twins lost to Baltimore 11-0 on Tuesday night, but nobody in that veteran clubhouse is pushing the panic button this early in the season.

“April’s not it, April’s not it at all,” Twins closer Matt Capps said. “It’s tough having teams target you. I don’t know if you look back over the last 15 or 20 years of major league baseball, but how many teams in first place on April 15 finish in first place? It’s tough.

“If we can be in the mix the middle of the year, maybe the next month or month and a half hover around .500, we can start to get to where we’re playing good baseball and it’ll all even out. When you look up in August and September, I think we’ll be where we want to be.”

The White Sox and Twins are downplaying the slow start and leaning on the “it’s a long season” crutch, fully confident that order will be restored as the season drags on. But the Indians and Royals appear to be brimming with confidence because, for once, they’re not out of the race.

“When a team comes together with winning as its overall goal, everybody is going to outperform their normal selves,” Cleveland’s Shelley Duncan said. “It happens everywhere I’ve ever been. Because of that, people push each other. You want to do well for better reasons than just doing well for yourself. You want to play the game the right way. When you do that, good things happen.”

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, Doug Tucker in Kansas City, Mo., and David Ginsburg in Baltimore, and freelance writer Patrick Rose in Chicago contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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