CHICAGO – Louie Varland doesn't think there is anything about his transition to the bullpen that has truly caught him off guard.
Not the 100 mph fastballs. Not the reliance on his cutter. Not how much he has made it look seamless.
"His fastball-cutter combination has looked good out of the 'pen," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Saturday. "I have to say we should be pretty pleased with the way that that has kind of spiced up."
Out of the bullpen, Varland has struck out 11 hitters in 8⅓ innings. The North St. Paul and Concordia (St. Paul) product has allowed two runs, five hits and one walk.
The Twins were optimistic Varland's pitches would translate well to the bullpen, but he has handled the roles thrown at him whether it's a multi-inning outing or following a starter in the middle of an inning.
"That transition, I think, has gone very well," Baldelli said. "We still have a lot to do and some comfort to gain on Louie's end, but overall I like what I've seen."
Wallner hitting fastballs again
Matt Wallner was benched against a righthanded starting pitcher last Monday, a chance to reset during a 9-for-53 slump.
The primary issue, he said, was swinging under fastballs. He wanted to return to a line-drive approach, and the results say he has done that.
Wallner has nine hits in 19 at-bats since he was out of the lineup.
"Just putting the ball in play felt good," Wallner said. "Once I got that, I kind of felt that I was going to be OK from there. I just needed that first one."
Taylor 'ready' to rejoin Twins
Michael A. Taylor called Saturday "the best I've felt in a long time" when he ran on the field before the game, setting him up to be activated from the 10-day injured list as early as Monday in Cincinnati.
"I'm trying to get as close to 100 percent as possible," Taylor said. "Just be in a position where I can trust that if I push it, there is not going to be any issues or setbacks."
Baldelli conceded Taylor was feeling well enough to play in games when the Twins began their road trip in Chicago, but the team wanted to be cautious with the center fielder. One hamstring setback could derail the rest of his season.
Taylor has done all baseball activities, and he has mimicked his usual pregame routine in the last few days.
"I feel like I've checked all the boxes," Taylor said. "I feel like I'm ready."
• Max Kepler was out of the lineup Sunday against White Sox righthander Dylan Cease. "We're at that time of the year, some guys need a day or two," Twins acting manager Jayce Tingler said. "We'll just go day to day, check with the medical staff, and if somebody needs to get off their feet for a little bit, we'll do that."
• Baldelli returned to Minnesota on Sunday morning because his wife, Allie, is due to deliver twin boys. "We'll be texting back and forth throughout the day," Tingler said. "The main thing is he's got to send pictures ASAP."
• The St. Paul Saints finished their weeklong series against the Iowa Cubs with a 1-0 loss in Des Moines. Brent Headrick struck out four in 3⅓ scoreless innings. Brooks Lee had two hits in four at-bats.
• New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone was asked by FanGraphs what teams have impressed him this season. Boone mentioned the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Twins. "I think [the Twins] go into the playoffs with a real chance," he said. "They have starting pitching, and their position player group, especially if they can get a little health going at the end of the year, is pretty good. I think they're more dangerous than people might give them credit for."