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Baker, bullpen solid as Twins top Tigers

July 23, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — After watching his teammates drop the first two games of the series, right-hander Scott Baker wanted to do all he could on Saturday to help the Twins get a win. The only thing standing in his way was a 75-80 pitch limit.

Baker squeezed a solid five innings out of his 82 pitches, and the Twins managed, with the help of four relievers, to secure a 4-1 victory over the Tigers at Target Field. With the win, the Twins pulled to within six games of the first-place Tigers.

The Twins will now have an opportunity with a win on Sunday to get back to where they were when the series began, sitting five games back in the American League Central.

“They’re obviously in front of us, and they’re one of the teams that we have to beat,” Baker said. “We’re headed in the right direction. We can compete with those guys, we know that.”

The Twins would have liked to have gotten more than five innings from Baker, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was happy to get the win.

“Honestly, we started getting a guy up in the fourth, at one point,” Gardenhire said. “We just didn’t want him to extend out too awful much. We’re still trying to feel our way through and see how he’s doing.”

After finishing the fourth inning with 72 pitches, Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson asked Baker how he was feeling.

Baker told them he could go another inning, and he got out of the fifth having faced just three batters.

“Today, given the situation, even with the pitch count, I didn’t want to give in to these guys,” Baker said. “They’re a good hitting lineup, and whether I threw three innings or five innings or six innings or whatever, I didn’t want to throw it over the plate and allow them to get something going.”

Thanks to Baker’s outing and a solid offensive performance, the Twins beat the Tigers for the first time since Sept. 1, 2010, snapping an 11-game losing streak against their AL Central rivals.

Baker blanked Detroit on three hits and a walk in his first start since July 5, a game which left with right elbow soreness. After giving up a pair of singles in the first, Baker cruised through the fifth, facing just one over the minimum with five strikeouts.

“[Baker] is very good at getting you out on high fastballs,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s got late life to it, he’s sneaky on top and he gets you to chase the ball just out of the strike zone. We were probably a little over-aggressive. He pitched a very good game coming back.”

But with Baker only going five innings, it marked the fifth consecutive game in which the bullpen was needed for three innings or more.

Anthony Swarzak, Phil Dumatrait, Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan combined to finish out the last four innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk. Nathan pitched the ninth for his seventh save, moving him within one save of tying Rick Aguilera for the Twins’ all-time saves record.

“Swarzy came in and did what he had to do; that’s a tough lineup over there with a lot of veteran hitters who shoot the ball all over the place,” Gardenhire said. “Duma came in and got the first-pitch double-play ball, which was huge in that inning, and got through it.

“You give the ball to Perk, and what can you say? He got in a little jam there, but goodness, he’s throwing the ball so well. Then Nathan finishes it off.”

First baseman Miguel Cabrera drove in the Tigers’ only run with a double in the sixth off Swarzak, scoring Brennan Boesch from second.

Through the first two games of the series, the Twins’ offense had been shut down by Tigers right-handers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but they finally put some hits together against Brad Penny.

Penny went seven innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

Michael Cuddyer drove in Ben Revere with a single in the first, and Danny Valencia led off the second inning with his 12th home run, a shot into the second deck in left field. The Twins then added two more in the fourth, as Delmon Young drove in Jason Kubel and Valencia with a double to the gap in right.

“These are games where we can catch back up, so we really needed to come out and win today, so we have a chance tomorrow [to] come out and win and be five back,” Young said. “You don’t want to get back down to nine or anything and try to make it up in the second half. You still want to get to Sept. 1 to have a chance to make a run for it.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Morneau, other injured Twins progressing

July 2, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins first baseman Justin Morneau had the cast removed from his wrist on Friday, and will begin to work on rehabbing it soon.

“He said it felt pretty good,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “He’s going to start some gripping exercises, some range of motion, and start getting the strength back in his forearm.”

Morneau had his left wrist immobilized for 10 days in June, with the hope that it would help heal both his sprained left wrist and the pinched nerve in his neck. Once he decided to have neck surgery this week, the cast was put back on his wrist to give it more time to heal.

McWane also gave updates on the Twins’ other injured players before Saturday’s game.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey (strained oblique) and left fielder Delmon Young (right ankle sprain) will travel on Sunday to Triple-A Rochester. Slowey is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday for the Red Wings and throw 60 pitches. Young will begin a rehab assignment next week.

Outfielder Jason Kubel (left foot sprain), who is on a rehab assignment with Fort Myers, made progress on Saturday, as he felt better running and took batting practice.

“He still has difficulty making cuts,” McWane said. “He’s not scheduled to play in a game, and we will re-evaluate daily.”

Twins notebook, 7/1

July 1, 2011 Comments off

Thome belts home run No. 594

MINNEAPOLIS — With the two injuries that have forced him to miss nearly 40 games this season, Jim Thome hasn’t even had time to think about reaching 600 home runs.

Even if his focus is just on staying healthy and contributing, the Twins slugger moved one step closer to that milestone on Friday, as Thome hit career homer No. 594, a three-run shot that just got over the fence in left field in a 6-2 win over the Brewers.

After missing so much time, Thome said it felt good to put one in the seats.

“It does, especially being on the DL and being in Florida trying to get back, and still trying to kind of get a feel here and get back going,” Thome said. “Anytime you can do something, especially the way the guys have been playing, and contribute and help out, is good, no doubt.”

Thome hit an 0-1 curveball from Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, giving the Twins a 3-1 lead. After missing 20 games with a left quad strain, Thome homered in his fifth game back from the disabled list.

Thome last homered on May 23 against the Mariners, when he hit two balls out of the park in his first game back from a DL stint for an oblique strain.

It was Thome’s fifth home run of the season, putting him six away from being the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600. Thome would be the first to reach the mark since the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez last season.

“Everyone gets excited when Jim Thome comes up, and he crushed that ball in the seats and that’s a big huge boost for us after we got down quick in the ballgame,” said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. “That’s kind of what we are hoping for as we go along here. If we can keep those guys healthy, some of those things can happen.”

 

Young takes batting practice at Target Field

MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time since spraining his right ankle, Twins left fielder Delmon Young took batting practice on Friday at Target Field. If everything continues to go well this weekend, Young will begin a Triple-A rehab assignment next week.

Young, who left during the fifth inning at Miller Park last Saturday after being injured, took part in both early BP and the Twins’ regular pregame batting practice session, and he also ran the bases.

“He’s feeling great,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “He’s going to do the same thing tomorrow, and the plan is for him to travel to Rochester on Sunday and start a rehab assignment with Rochester next week.”

McWane also gave updates on right-hander Kevin Slowey, currently on the disabled list with an abdominal injury. The 27-year-old threw 3 1/3 innings on Thursday night for the Fort Myers Miracle.

Slowey also will travel to Rochester on Sunday. He is scheduled to start Tuesday for the Red Wings, McWane said.

Twins center fielder Denard Span also continues to make progress in his recovery from a concussion sustained on June 3 in Kansas City.

“Denard came out early, did some long toss, did some running [and] had a good workout,” McWane said. “We still hope to get him on the field taking batting practice at some point, although we don’t have a date right now.”

Humphries, Kardashian take in the opener

MINNEAPOLIS — After waiting out a two-hour rain delay, former Minnesota Gophers forward Kris Humphries threw out the first pitch on Friday at Target Field.

Humphries, an all-Big Ten honoree and 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was named Minnesota Mr. Basketball as a senior at Hopkins High School in 2003. He spent the last two seasons with the New Jersey Nets, and previously played for the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz.

Joining Humphries to watch the Twins take on the Brewers was his fiance, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian. The two were visited in their suite during the rain delay by a pair of Twins, closer Matt Capps and catcher Drew Butera.

Before the game, Kardashian tweeted: “Hi Minnesoooota! Heading to the twins game tonight! This should be fun!”

Twins notebook, 6/26

June 26, 2011 Comments off

Mauer to start working out at first base

MILWAUKEE — Had they been playing by American League rules, Joe Mauer likely would have been in the Twins lineup on Sunday as the designated hitter.

With DH not an option in the Twins’ final Interleague road game of the season, Mauer was out of the lineup for the day game after Saturday’s night game. And that’s part of the reason why Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would like Mauer to get comfortable at first base.

“Yeah, definitely, if he could play first base, he probably would be playing first base today,” Gardenhire said. “Or third base, or somewhere. That’s why I want to explore all the options we have to keep his bat in the lineup as much as we possibly can, especially when all these people are hurting.”

When the Twins return home after their series with the Brewers, Mauer will put in some work at first base to get comfortable with the new position.

Gardenhire said Mauer is still working his way back behind the plate, but should have more time to get acclimated to first base when the Twins are back home. He also said he’d like to have Mauer work with special assistant to the GM — and former Twins manager — Tom Kelly at first base, but has no plans for that as of yet.

“I’d love to, but I don’t think Joe’s ready for that one,” Gardenhire said. “TK’s as good … as I’ve ever been around, as far as teaching people at first base — absolutely.”

Gardenhire prefers a week’s rehab for Kubel

MILWAUKEE — Twins outfielder Jason Kubel (left foot sprain) is getting close to a rehab stint, and his manager would like it to include as many as seven games.

Ron Gardenhire said Kubel could play as few as four Minor League rehab games, but he’d prefer to see Kubel get about 28 to 30 at-bats over a week of games at either Class A Fort Myers or Triple-A Rochester.

“I’ve seen guys come back with 15 or 20 at-bats, and I just think — you’ve been out a month, 30 at-bats is probably a pretty good thing,” Gardenhire said. “I know we originally talked about four days, but when we get home, I’m going to maybe talk about a little bit more.”

Kubel ran the bases with no issue on Saturday, and was scheduled to do the same on Sunday.

Twins head trainer Rick McWane also gave updates on Denard Span (concussion), Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) and Delmon Young (right ankle sprain).

McWane said Span was scheduled to work out on Sunday at Target Field and is still slated to be evaluated when the team returns home.

Slowey threw 35 pitches in two innings with no problems on Saturday night, allowing two runs on three hits with four strikeouts for the Fort Myers Miracle. His next outing is scheduled for Wednesday.

“He is going to pitch on the 29th, three to four innings, 50 pitches,” McWane said. “We haven’t decided where he’s going to pitch.”

Young, who left Saturday’s game after injuring his ankle in the fifth inning, will have an MRI on Monday after the Twins return home.

Tosoni doesn’t mind quick turnaround

MILWAUKEE — When he learned that he had been recalled and added to the Twins’ 25-man roster on Saturday, Rene Tosoni had to scramble to get his laundry done. He had only been home four hours, and had plenty to clean before catching a flight at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Of course, he didn’t mind, since it meant Tosoni would be back with the big league club again just one day after being optioned. Tosoni flew from Milwaukee to Rochester and back, logging just over 1,200 miles in less than 24 hours.

“When I got called up, I was in Columbus, and I’ve been living in hotels since,” Tosoni said. “Traveling kind of sucks, but it’s all right. I’m happy to be here.”

Tosoni didn’t even see anyone with the Red Wings, who were in Syracuse on Saturday before returning home Sunday.

After not getting much sleep Saturday night, Tosoni spent about five hours traveling Sunday morning, leaving Rochester, N.Y., at 6:10 a.m. ET and arriving in Milwaukee at 10:07 a.m. CT.

Said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire: “That trip going down is never as fun as the one coming back.”

Twins ink fourth-round pick Summers

MILWAUKEE — The Twins announced on Sunday that they have signed right-hander Matt Summers, their fourth-round pick out of UC-Irvine.

Summers, the 18th Draft pick signed by the Twins from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is the second-highest pick signed behind second-rounder Madison Boer, also a right-hander.

Previously drafted by the Yankees, Summers was the Big West Pitcher of the Year in 2011. He was 11-2 with a 1.72 ERA, striking out 96 batters in 109 2/3 innings in 16 starts. He tossed the fourth no-hitter in school history against Long Beach State.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Young sprains ankle, lands on DL

June 25, 2011 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — As he crashed into the left-field fence in the fifth inning, Delmon Young’s spike got caught on the bottom of the wall, forcing his weight down on his right ankle.

Young left Saturday’s 11-1 loss at Miller Park and was carted off after suffering a right ankle sprain. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the game, and the Twins recalled outfielder Rene Tosoni.

“I got my spike caught on the bottom of the scoreboard; the black ledge just sticks out,” Young said. “Instead of my foot missing it and just hitting the ground, it got caught in there, and the rest of my weight went into it.”

Young misjudged a fly ball by Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, first coming in on it before racing back toward the warning track. As he crashed into the left-field fence, he landed awkwardly on his ankle at the bottom of the wall. Betancourt raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

The ball bounced away from Young as he laid on the warning track, clearly in pain. He was helped to his feet and onto a stretcher before being carted off the field.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the training staff raced out to attend to Young when he was unable to get back up after the play.

“I saw him go into the wall and then when I saw him start rolling, honestly, I passed Betancourt rounding third,” Gardenhire said. “I was out of the dugout running that way and he was coming home. I was just looking at Delmon and it didn’t look very pretty.”

X-rays taken at Miller Park on Young came back negative. Young will have an MRI when the Twins return to Minnesota on Monday.

“Hopefully the MRI shows that there’s no ligament damage or anything,” Young said. “It’s not as [bad] as the sprain I had back in ’03 before the Draft, but it’s the same foot. So hopefully this one doesn’t cause any problems from the first one I had.”

Young already spent two weeks on the disabled list in early May with a strained oblique, and his most recent injury is yet another on a long list for the Twins this season.

“We’ve been dealing with it,” Gardenhire said. “You just have to keep playing and keep trying to run people out there. It’ll be easier on us once we get back to American League baseball.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins beat 5/24

May 24, 2011 Comments off

Cuddyer sits on Tuesday; Young in lineup

MINNEAPOLIS — After leaving Monday’s game with tightness in his right hip, Michael Cuddyer said he felt better on Tuesday, though he still remained out of the Twins lineup.

Cuddyer injured the hip during his sixth-inning at-bat on Monday, saying he felt it grab after a foul ball. He went through all his usual pregame activities before Tuesday’s game against the Mariners and hopes to return soon.

“He felt good about the activities we did inside; he’s out here now testing it out to see how it goes,” head trainer Rick McWane said Tuesday during batting practice. “He doesn’t anticipate that it’s going to be a major problem, and he could be available [Wednesday].”

Left fielder Delmon Young, who also left Monday’s game with an injury, was back in the lineup on Tuesday. Young had a shin contusion after fouling a ball off his leg in the sixth inning, but felt good enough to play Tuesday night.

Mijares, Perkins progressing; Slowey’s status unclear

MINNEAPOLIS — Head trainer Rick McWane gave an update on Tuesday on injured Twins relievers Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey.

Mijares threw a light session off the mound on Tuesday, and will throw in the bullpen on Wednesday.

“If that goes well, he’ll go out on a rehab assignment somewhere this weekend,” McWane said.

McWane added that Perkins is still making good progress with his strained right oblique.

Slowey, whose MRI on his oblique and abdomen came back negative on Monday, will see a doctor on Wednesday morning to check for a possible hernia.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if he was expecting to make a move with Slowey going somewhere after Tuesday’s game. Still unsure if Slowey had any sort of injury, Gardenhire indicated the decision would not come until after Slowey’s visit to the doctor.

“I’m still waiting to see what we have,” Gardenhire said. “He’s going to see a hernia doctor, we’re going to see if there’s any issues there, and if that’s clear, then we’ll probably do something.”

Twins beat, 5/23

May 23, 2011 Comments off

Slowey to pitch again soon, but not as reliever

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey had an MRI on his oblique and abdomen Monday that came back negative, but he is not going to be pitching out of the bullpen again anytime soon.Head trainer Rick McWane said Slowey’s MRI did not show any inflammation or tears in the muscle. After learning of the news, manager Ron Gardenhire said Slowey will pitch again soon, but not in a relief role.

“We’ll see what the best route is to go with him,” Gardenhire said. “We all know he needs to pitch. He’s basically told us he really can’t do this out of the ‘pen, and so now we’ve got to find another way, whether it’s Triple-A or whatever.

“That’s our only option, is send him down and let him start — it sounds to me like that.”

The Twins have three options now with Slowey: send him to the Minors to pitch, add him to the big league rotation or explore trade options.

Gardenhire said he would talk with Twins general manager Bill Smith and with Slowey to determine the best course of action. He added that Slowey would be unavailable out of the bullpen while they worked to figure out a solution.

“We’re going to get him in a situation where he can start,” Gardenhire said. “That’s how he needs to prepare to pitch, and he’s tried to get loose out there, it hasn’t worked out.

“I can’t tell a guy two innings before he’s going to pitch that, ‘You probably are going to pitch in two innings.’ It just doesn’t work that way in the bullpen.”

Cuddyer, Young exit game with minor injuries

MINNEAPOLIS — Two more injuries were added Monday night to the long list the Twins have already compiled this season. Fortunately, neither seems too serious.

Left fielder Delmon Young left with a left leg contusion after fouling a ball off his leg in the seventh inning and second baseman Michael Cuddyer left with a right hip strain after singling and scoring earlier in the frame.

Young’s injury was noticeable after the 8-7 10-inning loss to the Mariners, but it was not anything that he or the Twins expect would keep him out for long.

“It’s just bruised right on the knee. It’s just bending, it was too sore to try to go out there and try running around,” Young said.

“Hopefully it’s just one of those things where it’s just a bruise for a day, and the next day you’re able to come out and have less pain, and be able to run around and tolerate.”

Cuddyer walked with a noticeable limp after the game, but he did run well on Jim Thome’s home run before coming out of the game. He said he felt his hip grab a bit after a foul ball during his at-bat that resulted in an infield single.

“That’s the funny thing, and that’s what actually is encouraging, is that I was busting it pretty good and I was running pretty well until I saw it go out of the park,” Cuddyer said. “I was on third base when they signaled home run. So that’s what’s kind of encouraging to me.”

With so many players having spent time on the disabled list already this season — Young being one of them — losing either player for an extended period would be another blow to what has been a trying season so far in Minnesota.

Both players expressed a hope that they would be back sooner rather than later, and Cuddyer said it would take quite a bit to keep him out of the lineup.

“For me, it’s either you can play or you can’t,” Cuddyer said. “There’s a black and white line in between that, either you can or you can’t. If I can, I’ll be out there. And if I can’t, you know I can’t.”

Mauer, Nishioka nearly ready to get in games

MINNEAPOLIS — Second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka may play in games by the end of the week, Twins head trainer Rick McWane said before Monday’s game against the Mariners.

Nishioka, who has been sidelined since April 7 with a broken left fibula, has made a lot of progress in his rehabilitation at the club’s Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.

“[He] did very good today,” McWane said. “They’ve increased his workouts, he’s doing just about everything he can on the field. His agility drills are going great and he’s very close to playing in a game. We anticipate, maybe by the end of the week, he’ll be playing in games.”

All-Star catcher Joe Mauer also continues to rehab in Fort Myers, and is close to getting in a game as a designated hitter. There’s no date set, but Mauer could DH as soon as Tuesday.

Mauer’s activities were increased Monday, and he will continue to be evaluated daily to determine if he is game-ready. He threw well Monday, at 120 feet, with good strength.

“He was throwing the ball well up here. He went down to Florida and after his first workout down there, his shoulder was a little sore,” McWane said. “So they backed him off a little bit, but they said it was a lot better today.”

Lefty reliever Jose Mijares, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 15 with elbow soreness, will throw off the mound Tuesday. Mijares will throw a bullpen later this week, and the Twins will then decide what the plan is for him, McWane said.

Glen Perkins, who went on the DL on Sunday morning with a strained right oblique, was “feeling a lot better” and was scheduled to be checked out by the team doctors on Monday.

Outfielder Jason Repko had been on the disabled list with a right quad strain. He was activated Sunday and rejoined the Twins prior to Monday’s game against the Mariners.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.