Cubs-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

Chicago Cubs starters pitched poorly in their last visit to Minneapolis, but chances are they could fare better in the franchise's first visit to pitcher-friendly Target Field.

The Cubs will make their first trip to the Minnesota Twins' current home Friday night in the opener of a three-game series between two of baseball's worst teams.

Chicago (19-38) was swept by Minnesota (22-34) in 2006, with its starters posting a 7.88 ERA. The Twins outscored the Cubs 18-3 in that three-game series at the Metrodome.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who visited Target Field with the Milwaukee Brewers, is excited about seeing the spacious venue again.

"It's probably one of the best venues there is as far as atmosphere," Sveum told the Cubs' official website. "They built a unique stadium. It plays a little big sometimes, but when the weather is warm, it plays a lot different."

Playing big would benefit any pitching staff. The Cubs are pitching well right now, with a 3.35 ERA during a 1-6 start to their 10-game road trip.

"In the middle of the field, it's pretty deep," said outfielder David DeJesus, who has played at Target Field with Kansas City and Oakland. "Down the right-field line, the high wall, it's not as deep, and in left field, the ball carries pretty good. It plays true to what it is."

DeJesus is probably looking forward to this visit for his own reasons. He is batting .343 during a 16-game hitting streak at Minnesota, and he's hit safely in all nine games he's played at Target Field.

The Twins are hoping catcher Joe Mauer will return after missing a three-game set at Kansas City this week with a bruised right thumb. Mauer is hitting .358 against left-handers this season, and the Cubs are starting southpaw Travis Wood (0-2, 4.56 ERA) in the opener.

Wood was a hard-luck loser Sunday at San Francisco, allowing one run over seven innings in a 2-0 defeat. He has never faced the Twins.

The Cubs have wasted several solid starts on their trip. Matt Garza yielded two runs in six innings of Thursday's 4-3, 10-inning loss at Milwaukee. Chicago's lone victory on the trip was a 10-0 rout of the Brewers on Tuesday. The Cubs have totaled nine runs in the other six contests.

"It's the same old story for the most part,'' Sveum said. "Getting great starts from our starters. They're going six or seven, giving up one or two and coming away with a loss consistently.''

The manager said he will use Alfonso Soriano - troubled by a sore left knee - as designated hitter for all three games of the Cubs' first series in an AL park.

"He's that one threat in our lineup, and it's hard to give him days off at all," Sveum said. "To his credit, he doesn't want any days off, and he doesn't take days off from work. You have to give him credit for that."

Twins right-hander P.J. Walters (2-1, 3.69) gave up four runs over a season-low 4 1-3 innings but did not get a decision in Saturday's 7-4 loss at Cleveland. Walters' major league debut was a start against the Cubs in 2009 while with St. Louis. He has no decisions and a 3.72 ERA in four appearances against them - three in relief.

Left fielder Josh Willingham is batting .361 during a 10-game hitting streak for the Twins, who have won seven of nine.

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