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STL@TOR: Stroman fans seven, holds Cards to one run

Marcus Stroman's season began with an ineffective stint in the bullpen, but he has since found success as a starter for the Blue Jays.

In each of the first two starts of his Major League career, the right-hander has turned in quality outings. In each case, Stroman went six innings and allowed one run, striking out six against the Royals and seven against the Cardinals. He'll look to continue that level of performance when he faces the Twins on Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

"It's been special," said Stroman, who is 3-0 with a 5.40 ERA this season. "It's just awesome to put my team in a position to win the two times I have been out there."

Stroman's favorable outcomes follow some earlier struggles on the mound. He allowed nine earned runs across 6 1/3 innings of relief last month, which resulted in a demotion to Triple-A Buffalo on May 18, only to be called up again and join the rotation two weeks later.

Part of Stroman's recent fortune, he says, has derived from being able to pitch around trouble with men on base. He allowed a combined 12 hits in his two starts.

"That's huge," Stroman said. "I have always felt that when guys get on, I feel I have been able to buckle down and really be at my best. That's something I have always prided myself on."

Righty Phil Hughes will take the hill for the Twins. He saw his streak of eight straight quality starts snapped in his last outing against the Astros on Friday, in which he allowed five runs on six hits -- three of them home runs -- over six innings.

Hughes had a 1.99 ERA with just two homers and three walks allowed over his previous eight outings. The start against Houston was also his first loss since April 15, which happened to come in a four-run, five-inning effort against the Blue Jays at Target Field.

"I didn't have my best fastball," Hughes said. "I just wasn't making adjustments the way I have before. I didn't recognize it early enough to make some better pitches with the two-seamer or the cutter. I tried to generate some extra velocity and came out of my mechanics a little bit and just left some balls over the plate."

Hughes says he's ready to move past that start, as he's still off to a strong start to the year with a 6-2 record and a 3.46 ERA.

"I'm not going to say there was a letdown or anything like that," he said. "It's just some days you have it and some days you don't. "

Twins: Hicks could be headed to DL
Center fielder Aaron Hicks remains sidelined with a sore right shoulder, and he could head back to Minnesota to get it examined if he is not feeling better by Wednesday.

Hicks was held out of the lineup for a third straight game on Tuesday after suffering the injury while making a game-ending diving catch in center field on Saturday. He's still having trouble throwing but is available to pinch-hit and pinch-run.

"It still bothers him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're going to have to figure this out in the next day or so. It's not really getting much better so we'll make a decision here in the next day or two."

Hicks has started 41 games in center field for Minnesota this season. Rookie Danny Santana has seen time at the position in his absence.

Blue Jays: Francisco in a slump
Blue Jays third baseman Juan Francisco was dropped to No. 8 in the batting order for Tuesday night's game with the Twins, where he went 0-for-2 before being subbed out in the seventh inning. The move was at least partially fueled by his recent struggles at the plate.

Francisco is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and since batting .292 and hitting eight home runs through his first 26 games, the lefty slugger has gone 7-for-46 with just two homers since May 21.

Opposing teams seem to be taking a different approach with him over the past couple of weeks. Francisco has been seeing more offspeed pitches, as pitchers tend to avoid challenging him with a fastball as much as possible.

"His game is power, that's who he is," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But he's just on one of those stretches right now, a lot of swing and miss. He had one of those earlier in the season too and he got out of it fairly quickly. You live and die with that, you know, because he catches one right, a guy or two on base, it makes a huge difference in the game."

Francisco has struck out in 34.2 percent of his at-bats this season.

Worth noting
• Kendrys Morales, who signed with the Twins on Sunday, started at designated hitter and batted fifth on Tuesday night. He is 3-for-8 with a walk since debuting on Monday.

• Toronto has gone 16-5 over its last 21 games after starting the season 23-22.

• With his three-run blast against Minnesota on Monday, Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion has hit 18 home runs since May 6. He leads the club with 20 homers.

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