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Twins notebook, 6/17

June 17, 2011

Mauer back behind dish and batting third

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Mauer was put right back in a familiar spot in the Twins lineup for the first time since April 12, batting third and playing catcher.

That still didn’t keep the 2009 American League MVP from feeling a little nervous.

“It’s been a long time since I stepped in the box,” Mauer said. “I tried to keep it simple tonight. A pretty tough lefty [was] out there tonight and I just tried to use the whole field and stay up the middle.”

Mauer didn’t waste much time getting his first hit in two months, either.

With a runner on and one out, Mauer hit a 92-mph fastball back up the middle, scoring Alexi Casilla from second base for his fifth RBI of the season.

“It was awesome,” Mauer said. “It was a good night.”

His other three at-bats did not go so well — Mauer finished 1-for-4 — but it still was a successful return for the St. Paul native as the Twins picked up the 6-5 victory.

Mauer said it felt good to be back in the lineup and behind the plate. Left-handed starter Brian Duensing said he and Mauer didn’t miss a beat.

“It felt the same,” Duensing said. “Seeing him back there just kind of felt like he’s been back there for a while. So it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.”

Even with his offense playing so well lately, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he had no hesitation about putting the four-time All-Star in his usual spot in the order right away.

“You get the people you started with, and if we get them healthy and on the field, we expect to win with that group,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, is get all of our healthy guys back on.”

For Mauer, it was his 710th career start batting in the three hole. He has just 96 combined starts in any of the other eight spots in the order, with 67 of those coming in the No. 2 hole.

Mauer had been batting second before hitting the disabled list two months ago, mainly due to the absence of Tsuyoshi Nishioka at the top of the order. Now, with Ben Revere leading off and Casilla swinging a hot bat in the two spot, Mauer is back in the three spot.

In nine games before going on the DL, Mauer batted .235, with a .289 OBP and .265 slugging, with a double and four RBIs. Mauer went 6-for-23 in seven rehab games with Class-A Advanced Fort Myers. He had two doubles, a home run and six RBIs for the Miracle.

Gardenhire put out his 64th different batting order Friday due to all of the Twins’ injuries. He has not used any one batting order more than twice this season, and the Opening Day lineup has not taken the field at home yet this season. But getting Mauer and Nishioka back should begin to make things easier on his filling out the lineup card.

“It’s not easy, but you just have to kind of ad lib a little bit,” Gardenhire said. “Kind of break the lineup up a bit and see what happens.”

Gardenhire: Perkins ready to go as setup man

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he would have no problem using lefty Glen Perkins in the eighth inning Friday night. He stuck to that, calling on Perkins to preserve a 6-5 lead against the Padres.

“It’s like I never left,” Perkins said. “That was good. Get right in there and get thrown in the fire, I like that.”

Perkins showed there was no need for him to be eased back in at all, pitching an impressive scoreless inning. After giving up a leadoff single, Perkins retired the last three batters he faced, two of them on strikeouts.

Before being sidelined by a strained right oblique, Perkins was the Twins’ most effective reliever in April and for the first three weeks of May.

He showed no sign of doing anything different in his return, lowering his ERA to 1.52 in 23 2/3 innings of work. Perkins has 24 strikeouts in 23 appearances.

“His fastball was jumping,” Gardenhire said. “He had a couple nice breaking balls, but the fastball was coming out of his hand, that was evident. The last guy he threw to, he really just let it fly, and said ‘Here it is.’ The ball was jumping out of his hand pretty good.”

Reliever Joe Nathan (elbow soreness) is scheduled to begin a rehab stint on Saturday with Triple-A Rochester, and could come off the disabled list as soon as next Friday in Milwaukee.

Gardenhire said he wants Nathan to pitch three times for the Red Wings in the next week, with the latter two being on back-to-back days.

Gardenhire suggested a potential schedule of Nathan making his first appearance Sunday, followed by back-to-back outings on Tuesday and Wednesday, with an off-day Thursday before returning Friday.

“He said he feels great, the arm feels as good as it could feel,” Gardenhire said. “We get three games out there, that’d be great. And then we’ll see where we’re at with him.”

Right-hander Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) was scheduled for long toss on Friday and Saturday, as well as a full bullpen session Sunday in Fort Myers.

“He’s pretty optimistic that he can start facing some hitters sometime in this next week,” said Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

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