Home might not be a place to relax, but the Twins are still glad their upcoming stretch will take place in the Metrodome.

The nine games starting Friday represent the longest homestand of the season so far, but it's by no means a break: The Twins face the AL East-leading Red Sox, the 2005 world champion White Sox and the Tigers, who lost to St. Louis in last year's World Series.

Each team will stay for three games.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged the level of competition coming in but would go no further. Each game, Gardenhire said, is fundamentally the same.

"It's always tough, any time you're traveling and playing," he said. "You just try to take each series as it is and you don't try to look at the long haul. If you do that, you'll beat yourself up, and start worrying about things before they get there."

The Twins head home to greet Friday's opponent, Boston, with an improved arsenal after they welcomed back Luis Castillo on Tuesday. Castillo is widely recognized as the man who gets the ball rolling, not only as the leadoff hitter but at shortstop as well, and his teammates went 4-6 without him.

Jeff Cirillo, who'd been out since the beginning of Spring Training after he underwent sugery to repair his damaged right knee, also returned to provide the bench with an extra boost.

That's not to mention a starting staff that's shown marked improvement recently.

For Carlos Silva, though, there wasn't much missing from his outings in the first place.

After a loss to the White Sox to start the season in which he allowed just one earned run, Silva has permitted three earned runs in each of his last three starts and still earned the win in two, a testimony to his teammates' trusty bats. During his last appearance, against the AL champion Tigers, the righty worked six innings and scattered 10 hits.

He walked only one, however, an impressive pattern that has emerged in his five starts and seen him walk just seven all season.

"We think each one of our pitchers brings something different...so each game is going to be different," Gardenhire said. "[Silva and Ramon Ortiz] are normally our guys that go out there and just going to attack, make you swing the bats and get games to move along if everybody cooperates. Do I like to see [them] on the mound? Sure."

Silva is 2-1 in four career outings against Boston [three starts], and holds a 1.80 ERA.

The Red Sox send Tim Wakefield to the mound. The right-hander battled a few control issues, as he walked six and allowed the Yankees to score three times during his last start, both season highs. The 5 1/3-inning outing was his shortest of the year and gave him his second straight loss, but it seems Wakefield has suffered from poor run support from his teammates more than anything: Boston has scored just four times in Wakefield's three losses this year.

Wakefield is 11-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 22 career starts against Minnesota.

It's the beginning of a grueling nine games, but Gardenhire said that looking any further ahead than the immediate future would only damage the plan of attack.

"You can't start taking it for granted that you're supposed to do this and that because right now, there's a lot of good baseball teams out there -- a lot of teams that will beat your brains out any night," Gardenhire said. "We'll take it one series at at time and the cliches will fly, but that's all you can do. You try not to say, 'This is the toughest part of our schedule,' because in baseball, it's all tough."

The Twins are 907-930 all-time against the Red Sox. This is the first time the two teams will meet this season.

Pitching matchup
MIN: RHP Carlos Silva (2-1, 3.10)
Has walked fewer batters in his career in April (17) than during any other month.

BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (2-3, 2.59)
Holds batters to .220 hitting indoors.

Player to watch
Castillo has hit .529 against Wakefield (9-for-17) with three RBIs, a walk and three stolen bases. Torii Hunter has seven RBIs, going 11-for-29 (.379), with a double, two homers and three steals.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN-HD

On radio
• TRN

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 1-2, 7.58) at Twins (LHP Johan Santana, 3-2, 3.60), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 3-1, 3.15) at Twins (RHP Sidney Ponson, 2-3, 6.67), 1:10 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off day