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Crede's season 'pretty much on line,' Twins' Gardenhire says

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Twins knew what they were getting when they signed Joe Crede -- an oft-injured, hard-slugging, soft-handed third baseman who can put the ball in the seats but for the past two seasons has struggled to stay off the bench.

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Twins knew what they were getting when they signed Joe Crede -- an oft-injured, hard-slugging, soft-handed third baseman who can put the ball in the seats but for the past two seasons has struggled to stay off the bench.

Still, Minnesota signed the 31-year-old during spring training, and because of his fragile history the Twins have employed a protective approach with him from the beginning. They protect Crede from wearing down with regular days off, such as Thursday's day game after a night game. But before any of that, they protected themselves.

Crede's one-year, incentive-heavy contract paid heed to his history -- a $2.5 million base salary with $4.5 million in bonuses based on plate appearances.

A troublesome back has taken Crede out of the lineup for a few games this season, and other nagging nicks and bruises have cost him as well -- and that's speaking literally. Now at 266 plate appearances, Crede has reached the first mark of a heavily tiered bonus scale.

He earned $500,000 the 250th time he came to the plate this season and will get $500,000 more at 300, 350, 400, 450 and 475 plate appearances. His 266 plate appearances through 85 games put him on pace for 506 this season, and that would leave him just shy of collecting his biggest bonuses, two $750,000 awards for hitting the 515 and 540 plate-appearance mark.

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On the field, manager Ron Gardenhire said Crede is earning his keep. Despite a .230 average and a .297 on-base percentage, the third baseman, Gardenhire said, has provided the pop (12 homers and 36 runs batted in) and defensive prowess (just two errors in 61 games after committing a career-high 20 in 97 games last season).

"We were hoping we'd have a gold glove-type guy at third base, and he's done that," Gardenhire said. "He's been hitting some balls in the seats, and we talked about at the end of the year if you can get somewhere between 20 and 30 home runs and somewhere between 100 and 75 RBIs. I think he's pretty much on line for both of those, and I don't think he's had a real hot streak yet."

Crede's season-best hitting streak this season was eight games, and he batted .303 during that time. But after hitting six home runs in May, he muscled just two in June. On defense, he has worked to stay sharp to limit what he called some "lackadaisical" throwing errors he committed last season with Chicago.

Working on a one-year contract means Crede is playing on a yearlong tryout with all 30 teams, and with that in mind he said of course he'd like a few more hits and fewer bruises.

"You'd like to show everyone because I have no guarantee for next year," Crede said. "You want to show everyone that you can stay healthy and the back pain is behind you."

Keppel perfecting sinker: Bobby Keppel took the first piece of advice he got in pro ball and ran with it.

"I was throwing my first bullpen session and (my pitching coach) said, 'Hey grip this two-seam,' " Keppel said. "I threw that, and he said, 'Don't throw a four-seamer again.' I've been, ever since then, trying to work with that pitch and kind of perfect it and that was nine years ago. Maybe nine years from now it will be better. Hopefully, I'm still playing."

Keppel works in a curve, slider and changeup as well, but the biggest reason for 11Zc scoreless innings since being called up June 23 is that sinker. Right-handed hitters are batting just .071 against him, and he has given up just six hits out of Minnesota's bullpen.

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