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During an afternoon that started with Twins starter Louie Varland issuing a walk to three of the first five batters he faced, his last pitch was a cutter in the middle of the strike zone that was crushed beyond the left-field fence for a two-run homer.

After Varland labored through 2⅔ innings Sunday, throwing fewer than half his pitches for strikes in the shortest major league start of his career, manager Rocco Baldelli didn't commit to keeping Varland in the rotation.

"There is urgency here," Baldelli said after the Twins' 6-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. "We can't pitch and play like this and think things are just going to be fine. Our guys know it's not just going to be fine. We're going to have to do things. We're going to have to be open to making roster moves and finding new ways to use players and figure some things out."

BOXSCORE: Detroit 6, Twins 1

MLB standings

The issue for Varland in his previous starts was putting away hitters in two-strike counts. On Sunday, he had trouble throwing anything for a strike. He opened with a 39-pitch first inning, which included a nine-pitch walk to his second batter.

The Tigers had a 1-0 lead when they loaded the bases with one out, prompting Twins reliever Matt Bowman to begin warming in the bullpen, but Varland escaped the inning with only one more run scored after a sacrifice fly and a strikeout.

"I've never seen him throw like that," Baldelli said. "That can happen. He's not the only good pitcher to go through something like that. But it wasn't something we've seen before."

After pitching around a leadoff walk in the second inning, Varland ran into more trouble with a single and a hit batsman to begin the third inning. Varland induced a double play, earning a chance to face another hitter with Cole Sands warming in the bullpen, but he was in a 2-1 count to Buddy Kennedy when he left a cutter over the heart of the plate. Kennedy drilled it for the second homer of his career.

"Great pitchers handle that [first inning], make adjustments and cruise from then on, but …" said Varland, his voice trailing off. He threw 35 of his 74 pitches for strikes. He added: "I work hard every week. I do all the right things and then to go out there and have an outing like this. It's frustrating."

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Varland owns a 9.18 ERA through four starts this season, yielding 17 earned runs, 27 hits and six homers in 16⅔ innings.

The Twins had internal conversations throughout the winter about whether Varland was best suited as a starter or reliever. He had a 1.50 ERA in seven relief appearances last year when his velocity ticked up and he threw his cutter more often. He entered spring training in a competition for the last spot in the rotation, a competition that ended when Anthony DeSclafani required season-ending elbow surgery.

"I mean, it's everything I asked for, trained for this offseason and going into camp," Varland said. "Had the opportunity right in front of me and, I mean, it's just not ideal how it's been going."

Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, didn't have an overpowering mix of his pitches, but he still shut down a struggling Twins lineup. The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the first inning after a single by Byron Buxton and two walks. Mize pitched out of it when Austin Martin lined out back to the mound and Willi Castro flew out to center.

The Twins totaled five hits and three walks in six innings against Mize, with four strikeouts, but it amounted to nothing. Two leadoff singles didn't advance to second base. Two more runners were stranded in the fourth inning. Martin prevented a shutout with his first career home run in the ninth inning, a liner to left field, before the Twins left two more runners on base.