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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.

Twins notebook, 6/25

June 25, 2011 Comments off

Gardenhire holds team meeting to clear air

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — If he did not want to throw a 3-2 fastball to Prince Fielder, then all Jose Mijares had to do was shake Joe Mauer off, or call him out to the mound.But once he threw that pitch, Mijares should have taken responsibility for it after Fielder ripped it to right field for a go-ahead double, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

“Every player’s got to be accountable, and Mija knows that,” Gardenhire said. “If you have the ball in your hand as a pitcher, and a catcher’s calling something you don’t want to throw, the one rule of this game is that you don’t have to throw it, because you have the ball.”

Gardenhire met with Mijares and Mauer before Saturday’s game, and the Twins also had a team meeting three hours before the first pitch to “clear the air.”

While the lefty reliever did not say anything his manager had not already said Friday night, Gardenhire noted that there was a difference between the manager questioning the pitch selection and the pitcher doing the same.”I can say those things, and I would’ve liked to see a breaking ball, but a pitcher can’t,” Gardenhire said. “If he doesn’t want to throw something, don’t throw it. That’s totally on your own shoulders and that’s being accountable.”

Regardless of who was at fault in the at-bat, Gardenhire made it clear that he did not want the issue to linger within the Twins’ clubhouse.

For that reason, he called the quick pregame meeting.

Though he also would have preferred to see a slider in that situation, Gardenhire said that if Mijares had better executed the pitch and put it where Mauer wanted it, the whole situation may have been avoided.

“I think Joe said it best,” Gardenhire said. “Yes he did call for a fastball, but he did not call a fastball down the middle.”

Gardenhire talks out struggles with Nishioka

MILWAUKEE — Not wanting his shortstop to get frustrated over his struggles at the plate, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called Tsuyoshi Nishioka into his office after Friday night’s 4-3 loss to talk.

“He needs to keep swinging and get more at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll get better as we go along. I just don’t want him to get too frustrated, bottle it all up, and start worrying about things that he doesn’t need to worry about.”

Nishioka has batted just .160 with two doubles and two RBIs in eight games since returning from the disabled list.

He’s also struck out eight times in 25 at-bats over that stretch, after missing 60 games due to a fractured left fibula.

“He’s back here, he’s been hurt a long time, and I want him to get out there and relax, get some swings in, and I told him that last night,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t want him to get too emotionally caught up, worrying about not doing his job.”

Valencia, Braun recall time at Miami

MILWAUKEE — As teammates at the University of Miami, Danny Valencia and Ryan Braun once each hit three-run home runs in the same game.

On Friday night, it was Valencia who put a three-run homer into the seats at Miller Park, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead at the time. Braun said that he wasn’t too thrilled about watching Valencia’s home-run ball go over the left-field fence.

“That’s never fun, you never want to see guys have success against us, but against everybody else I definitely root for him,” Braun said. “I obviously wish him the best, and not just him, but everybody else that we played with as well. It’s pretty cool to see quite a few guys in the Major Leagues and having a lot of success.”

In 2005, Valencia and Braun manned the corner infield spots for the Miami Hurricanes during their sophomore and junior seasons, respectively. They were part of a Miami team that also featured Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay and Indians closer Chris Perez.

During that season, Valencia and Braun combined for 153 hits, 24 home runs and 139 RBIs for Miami, which lost in the Super Regional round to a Nebraska team that featured Alex Gordon at third base and Brian Duensing out of the bullpen.

The two still remain in touch with each other and many other Miami teammates.

“Yeah, of course, man,” Braun said. “I follow everybody, keep in touch with everybody. He’s doing well, I’m happy for him and it’s good to see. Especially because obviously he wasn’t a high Draft pick, so the fact that he’s made it is that much more impressive. And he’s gotten an opportunity, really taken advantage of it, and done really well.”

During batting practice on Friday before the series kicked off, the two took a few minutes to catch up.

They only spent the one season together before Braun was drafted fifth overall by the Brewers, but Valencia said he enjoyed playing with Braun and all the talented players on that Miami team.

“I looked up to him because he was just a really, really talented player,” Valencia said. “He was a good guy, he’s hilarious and he’s fun to be around. He keeps everything loose, makes you feel comfortable.”

Slowey tosses two frames in Class A

MILWAUKEE — Twins head trainer Rick McWane gave quick updates on Saturday on right-hander Kevin Slowey and outfielders Denard Span and Jason Kubel.

Slowey threw two innings on Saturday night in Class A Advanced, allowing two runs on three hits with four strikeouts.

Kubel ran the bases on Saturday and will do the same on Sunday before joining the Twins for a full workout on Monday at Target Field.

Span had another good day on Saturday and will be reevaluated when the Twins return home.

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 notebook, 6/24

June 24, 2011 Comments off

Nathan feeling rejuvenated after DL stint

MILWAUKEE — Joe Nathan said that he felt as good on Friday as he has since before undergoing Tommy John surgery last March.

“Now it’s just a matter of getting pitching strength and getting that experience back, and getting out there and throwing every day,” Nathan said. “That was my first time throwing back-to-back [days since the surgery]. The more times you get out there and do that, I think the better it’s going to get.”

Nathan was activated from the 15-day disabled list after Thursday’s game, as right-hander Jim Hoey was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

In three rehab games for the Red Wings, Nathan allowed one unearned run on two hits while striking out five and walking one in three innings. Before going on the DL, Nathan went 1-1 with a 7.63 ERA, allowed 13 earned runs in 17 appearances for the Twins.

“The biggest difference has been the confidence to get back out there and feel fine,” Nathan said. “Confidence, I think, came with the way it felt after the scar tissue started breaking up. I think my arm speed has been a lot better.

“I’ve always talked about finishing pitches, and I felt like I wasn’t finishing too well early on. When I threw in Rochester, it just felt like I was able to get out in front more and finish a lot more pitches. Even ones that I missed, a lot of times they were down.”

Thome off DL, activated for Saturday

MILWAUKEE — Jim Thome was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list after the Twins’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Friday. Outfielder Rene Tosoni was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

Thome had been on the 15-day disabled list since June 2 with a strained left quad, which was related to his strained oblique in early May that kept him out for three weeks. After five at-bats in a simulated game on Wednesday, Thome was deemed healthy enough to return.

He was evaluated after taking batting practice and running the bases prior to Friday’s game at Miller Park. After the game, the Twins announced he had been activated for Saturday’s game.

“I got out and moved around, and if all goes well I’ll be activated tomorrow,” Thome said before the game.

Thome was on the DL during the Twins recent hot streak, which he said was fun to watch, and got him excited to return.

With the previous two injuries being related, Thome was also optimistic about his chances to stay injury-free for much, if not all, for the rest of the season.

“I hope so, yeah, that’s the goal,” Thome said. “I’ve had a history of lower back issues in the past, so the frustrating part is any time you’re rehabbing anything, you want to make sure that everything’s good.”

Kubel, Span expected to return soon

MILWAUKEE — Injured outfielders Jason Kubel and Denard Span both had great days back in Minnesota on Friday, according to Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

Kubel had a “very good day” of running on Friday and was scheduled to run the bases on Saturday.

“He’s very close,” McWane said. “Very encouraging news about him, and Denard as well.”

Span played catch on Friday, hit off a tee and, more importantly, had no concussion symptoms.

It was the first time since the concussion that Span had no concussion symptoms after participating in baseball activities.

McWane also updated the status of reliever Kevin Slowey, who continues to rehab in Florida. Slowey will pitch on Saturday night for Class A Advanced Fort Myers.

“Tomorrow night, actually, he’s going to pitch for the Miracle,” McWane said. “Two to three innings for the Miracle tomorrow night in Bradenton.”

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 notebook 6/12

June 12, 2011 Comments off

Thome to start rehab work on Monday

MINNEAPOLIS — Eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, designated hitter Jim Thome will begin rehab work in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday.

Thome, sidelined since June 2 with a strained left quadriceps, has made progress over the weekend since receiving an epidural on Friday. Before the Twins’ series finale with the Rangers on Sunday, Thome even took some swings in the cage.

“I’m feeling good,” Thome said. “I swung and had no issues today. Everything went good.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire said before Sunday’s game that if everything went well, the club would send Thome to Florida.

“He said he would really like to get to Florida and start getting in that heat and start doing his rehab down there and get back to swinging,” Gardenhire said. “He likes that program down there because it’s controlled pretty well, but he can get a lot of work in because there are so many bodies down there that are willing to try to do something.”

Until he begins working in Fort Myers, though, Thome won’t know whether he’ll be ready to return to the Twins when he becomes eligible on Thursday.

Even if it takes Thome a few extra days to return, the Twins should have a pretty formidable lineup when he does, with Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka expected back from the 60-day DL in the next week.

“I think it’s exciting, yeah,” Thome said. “Especially with as hard as those guys have worked down there, Nishi and Joe, and the rest of the guys here obviously have done a great job lately. So it’s kind of exciting to see where our team could go.”

Morneau, others making progress in recovery

MINNEAPOLIS — Hand specialist Dr. Thomas Varecka has not yet seen the MRI taken of Justin Morneau’s left wrist, but that should not delay Morneau’s scheduled return.

The MRI showed some fluid but did not reveal any structural damage. Morneau may receive a cortisone shot at some point, but he is expected back in the lineup on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday and Sunday and the Twins’ off-day on Monday.

“[Varecka] probably will see it [on Monday],” said Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

McWane also gave updates on the rest of the injured Twins, though there are no major changes for any of them.

Relievers Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) and Joe Nathan (elbow soreness) continue to work in Fort Myers, Fla., at extended spring training. Slowey was scheduled to throw off a mound on Sunday, and Nathan is set to face hitters on Monday.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fratured left fibula) and Glen Perkins (strained oblique) are with Triple-A Rochester in Toledo, with Perkins having thrown a scoreless first inning on Saturday, allowing one hit. Nishioka was scheduled to play on Sunday, and Perkins will throw two innings on Tuesday night in Toledo.

Nishioka is expected to return sometime this week, and Perkins could be back soon as well.

Center fielder Denard Span, on the seven-day DL with a concussion, is “getting better,” McWane said.

Eligible to return on Tuesday, Jason Kubel continues to feel better every day.

“He’s still doing well hitting, [but] he’s still a little bit sore running around,” McWane said. “We’re just progressing him as he tolerates.”

Mauer homers, ramps up rehab work

June 10, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins catcher Joe Mauer caught his third straight game for Fort Myers on Friday, marking the first time he had caught three days in a row during his rehab. In his first at-bat, he hit a three-run home run.

Mauer, who is on the 60-day disabled list with bilateral leg weakness, was scheduled for a full workout on Saturday before catching again Sunday, after which he’ll be eligible to return.

“I talked to him today, he feels great,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Arm feels good, his body feels good after catching two days. … He actually says he’s feeling really good, better than he has in a long time.”

Gardenhire said they would decide on the next step in Mauer’s rehab process after he caught on Sunday.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka led off and played shortstop at Fort Myers for the third straight game as well on Friday. Nishioka went 1-for-3 with a stolen base Thursday night.

Gardenhire said he had talked on the phone with Nishioka on Friday as well, discussing his likely trip to Triple-A Rochester before rejoining the Twins.

“It’s a little faster game at Triple-A than in the lower Minor Leagues,” Gardenhire said. “We’ll see what happens from there. They tell me he’s been moving around really good out there, hopefully that’s the case.”

Reliever Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) took a day off from throwing Friday. His return date is still TBD.

Twins head trainer Rick McWane said Jason Kubel continued to make progress, hitting in the cage on Friday and progressing his running. He is eligible to return next Friday.

Joe Nathan is still scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday and will fly to Fort Myers later Saturday afternoon. Lefty reliever Glen Perkins will throw one inning Saturday in Toledo for Triple-A Rochester.

McWane also gave an update on center fielder Denard Span, who continues to receive treatment for his whiplash and concussion symptoms.

“He’s getting treatment on his neck,” McWane said. “He’s also going to go continue testing for his concussion symptoms and doing balance work.”

Designated hitter Jim Thome had an epidural Friday morning, and said after the Twins’ 9-2 loss to the Rangers that he hopes to begin baseball activities in a few days.

“It was just a little of pain in my lower back and the inflammation around my disk had to calm down,” said Thome, who received a similar shot in 2002. “So that was the process and that’s why they went in and did what they did. So we’ll see where we’re at. The discomfort has definitely calmed down, so that’s a good thing.”