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Twins notebook, 7/24

July 24, 2011 Comments off

Twins happy to see Blyleven honored

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — With the start time of Sunday’s series finale against the Tigers pushed back two hours, the Twins were looking forward to watching Bert Blyleven’s speech during his induction ceremony into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Blyleven, who had his No. 28 retired by the Twins eight days earlier at Target Field, has been in Cooperstown since Wednesday for various Hall of Fame activities. On Sunday, the day finally came for Blyleven — along with Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick — to be honored at the Hall of Fame.

“It should be really cool,” lefty reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native, said prior to the ceremony. “I remember when [Kirby] Puckett went in and [Paul] Molitor went in. Those were guys that I watched go in, and I never really knew Kirby, but I’ve known Paul pretty well for a while.

“I know Bert as well as I know Paul, so it’s going to be cool to watch him give that speech and see him at the Hall of Fame there. I’m looking forward to watching it.”

The Twins showed Blyleven’s speech on the video board for fans attending Sunday’s game, while Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the players planned to watch it on TV in the clubhouse.

“I wish that we could be there to enjoy it with him,” Michael Cuddyer said. “But it’s been a long time coming, and he deserves it as much as anybody does.”

Given Blyleven’s 16-year career as a Twins broadcaster and his knack for keeping things interesting on the air, his speech is expected to be a good one.

“I can’t wait to listen; it ought to be really entertaining, knowing all the stories that he has,” Gardenhire said Sunday morning. “There’s got to be something good in there. I’d like to listen to it in here; I’m interested in what he has to say. It’ll be fun stories, knowing Bert.”

Baker feeling fine after first start off DL

MINNEAPOLIS — While he had no issues throwing 82 pitches in five innings on Saturday night, the important thing for Twins right-hander Scott Baker was how he felt the next day.

Before Sunday’s series finale with the Tigers, Baker said he felt great.

“I kind of had an idea that I was going to feel OK, because once I was done, I just felt like I got a good workout,” Baker said. “As far as a hurting type of soreness, I don’t have anything like that. I haven’t played catch yet, but I feel like everything should be fine.”

In making his first start since July 5, Baker went in with a limit of 75-80 pitches. After finishing the fourth with 72 pitches, Baker went back out for the fifth and tossed 10 more before leaving the game, having allowed just three hits.

Baker said he expected to be able to increase his pitch count in his next outing.

“I’ll leave that up to them,” Baker said. “But I’d like at least get to the 100-pitch mark next time.”

Span plays back-to-back rehab games

MINNEAPOLIS — Center fielder Denard Span played seven innings for Triple-A Rochester in a rehab game on Sunday after also playing seven innings on Saturday.

Span went 0-for-4 on Sunday in the Red Wings’ 3-0 loss. Through six rehab games, after being on the shelf since early June with a concussion, Span has three hits in 20 at-bats with Rochester. All three hits were singles, and Span has also stolen a base.

“Everything seems to be going along just fine,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who watched Denard play on Saturday night. “He’s feeling good.”

While a return to the Twins seems likely to come soon for Span, it will not happen until he plays full games in center field on consecutive nights. Gardenhire has also talked recently about getting Span going at the plate before his return.

“He’s still playing seven innings,” Gardenhire said. “The talk is trying to get him to where [he’s] playing nine innings, probably four or five days in a row. Then we’ll see where we’re at. He’s getting close to being able to do that.”

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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Twins turn tables, rally past Brewers late

July 3, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Capps is still the Twins’ closer. But lefty Glen Perkins showed Sunday that he too could close out a ballgame, and with authority.

After watching Capps put two on with one out, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called on Perkins to face left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Perkins struck out Fielder and Casey McGehee to secure the 9-7 victory.

Facing the All-Star first baseman in a big situation, Perkins retired Fielder on three pitches, getting him to chase a slider for the second out of the inning. Then, after McGehee fouled off two fastballs and Perkins missed with two sliders out of the zone, he got the slumping third baseman to swing over a slider down and in to end the game.

McGehee snapped his bat over his knee before walking back to the dugout as the Twins celebrated the thrilling come-from-behind victory.

“That was a really hard situation; Cappy has good numbers [against Fielder], he let me know that on the mound,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to win baseball games, and I just thought that was a better matchup at the time.

“I think Perkins has a hot hand, and I wanted to win the ballgame, so I went to Perkins.”

Perkins has been dominan all season, giving up just seven runs (six earned) over 30 innings for a 1.80 ERA. Lefties are hitting just .209 off Perkins with 10 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.

The biggest key to Perkins’ success has been the use of his slider, which is tough on both lefties and righties, as he showed Sunday in getting Fielder and McGehee to swing and miss at it. Being able to touch 96 mph with his fastball doesn’t hurt, either.

“I’m just kind of putting it where I want for the most part,” Perkins said. “That’s a good pitch to have if I can run fastballs up there and get them off that and then throw the slider, it’s got to be tough as a hitter.”

With Perkins picking up his first career save, the Twins put together a comeback of their own Sunday against the Brewers after watching a seven-run lead slip away a night earlier.

They didn’t trail by as many runs as the Brewers did the night before, and the Twins did not wait until the ninth, but Minnesota returned the favor, handing Milwaukee a tough loss.

With their comeback, Minnesota got starter Nick Blackburn off the hook after he had a second straight rough outing, giving up six runs in just four innings.

Blackburn retired the first six Brewers in order, but all three outs in the second were hard-hit line drives. Mark Kotsay broke through for Milwaukee in the third with a 442-foot solo blast into the second deck in right field.

Milwaukee batted around in the fourth, scoring five runs on five hits, including a two-run triple by Kotsay.

Including the eight runs (seven earned) allowed on 13 hits over 4 1/3 innings Monday against the Dodgers, Blackburn has gone 0-1 with a 14.05 ERA in his last two starts, allowing 13 earned runs allowed on 19 hits in just 8 1/3 innings.

“I kind of over-adjusted from my last outing,” Blackburn said. “I struggled in it, and went out and tried to do a little too much today. We’ll just try to tune it back down a little bit and hopefully get back on track.”

After falling behind, 6-1, through four innings, the Twins’ comeback started in the fourth with a three-run home run by left fielder Rene Tosoni.

Brewers starter Zack Greinke was particularly frustrated by that pitch to Tosoni, a fastball up and away that was supposed to be buried inside.

“That pitch and the pitch to [Michael] Cuddyer before, those were the two big mistakes of the game,” Greinke said. “Other than that, I pitched real well. Those two were real bad. I don’t know that hitter [Tosoni], but that’s not a good pitch to anyone. … I don’t know why I made a pitch that bad when there’s two guys on base. I don’t get it.”

Greinke allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. It was the sixth time in 12 starts this season he had allowed four or more earned runs, and the eighth start in which he gave up at least one home run.

With two out in the seventh, the Twins continued their rally as Joe Mauer and Cuddyer hit back-to-back singles, with the latter driving in Ben Revere from second base. Jim Thome, who earlier hit career home run No. 595, then walked to load the bases.

Third baseman Danny Valencia ripped a single to left, which was misplayed by Kotsay, allowing all three runs to score and Valencia to slide in safely at third as the Twins went from down five to the eventual two-run victory.

“It was unfortunate,” Kotsay said. “If I had come up with the ball, I thought we would have had a play at the plate with Cuddyer.”

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, 6/17

June 17, 2011 Comments off

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.

Perkins eager to return to club

June 16, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — When the Twins were in the middle of their worst struggles in late May, lefty reliever Glen Perkins remained dominant. That is, until he joined the long list of Twins to hit the disabled list this season.

Perkins went down with a strained right oblique after leaving his outing on May 21 in Arizona, having faced just one batter. In his absence, the Twins have gone 12-10 without Perkins, including a 10-3 mark in June.

He was activated from the disabled list after Thursday’s 1-0 win over the White Sox, and on Friday, he’ll get his chance to be a part of the Twins’ current success. Fellow left-hander Chuck James was optioned to Triple-A Rochester to make room for him on the 25-man roster.

“[Joe] Nathan and I’d sit there, look at each other and think, ‘Man, it’d be fun to be out there,'” Perkins said. “We were home for that 10-day road trip, we were here in the morning every day, and we’d talk about the game the night before and wish we were a part of it. So, I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there [on Friday].”

After posting a 1.59 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 22 appearances in the middle of the Twins’ struggling bullpen, Perkins has been forced to sit and watch as the staff has dominated this month.

The Twins finished Thursday with a Major-League best 1.80 ERA in June, with the bullpen having allowed just three earned runs since June 1 — for a 0.94 ERA over 28 2/3 innings pitched.

“It [stunk],” Perkins said. “And it’s even harder when the team starts playing well that you don’t get to be a part of it.”

In two rehab appearances with Triple-A Rochester, Perkins did not allow a run, while giving up four hits and striking out two batters in three innings of work.

After throwing one inning in his first appearance with the Red Wings, Perkins pitched a strong seventh and eighth on Tuesday.

“I tested it good on Tuesday,” Perkins said. “I threw pretty much everything as hard as I could, just to make sure that it was going to be OK.”

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.”

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.”