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Twins notebook, 7/19

July 19, 2011 Comments off

Gardy: No roster move until at least Thursday

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it would be until Thursday at the earliest before the club makes a roster move to get another position player back.

After bringing up an extra pitcher to help get through Monday’s doubleheader, the Twins will play through at least the next two games with a short bench offensively. Before their series opener with Detroit on Thursday, the Twins could call up an outfielder.

Which outfielder they call up will likely depend on if Jason Kubel is ready to return from the disabled list, where he has been since early June with a sprained left foot.

“I think Thursday would be the first day that [Rene] Tosoni would be eligible,” Gardenhire said. “If it looks like Kubes needs to stay a little longer, we could maybe change it out.”

If he were available now, Tosoni would likely have been recalled on Monday following the doubleheader. But after being optioned on July 10, he has to spend 10 days with Triple-A Rochester, making Tosoni eligible to return on Thursday.

Matt Tolbert, who was optioned to make room for the extra pitcher, will also not be eligible to return until after at least 10 days with the Red Wings.

While Kubel is the preferred option this week, Gardenhire said he would not rush either Kubel or Denard Span back from rehabbing in Rochester. Through two rehab games, Kubel is 1-for-8 with four strikeouts, and Span is 0-for-6 with a strikeout.

“I’d sure like to see [Kubel] swinging better than he is now,” Gardenhire said. “They don’t have return flights, I know that. So, we’ll do the best we can. We’ve got to get [Kubel and Span] swinging, though.”

Injured Twins at various stages of recovery

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Scott Baker’s bullpen session is scheduled for Wednesday, and the Twins will decide on the next step for him based on how it goes.

Twins head trainer Rick McWane said Baker “felt great” throwing long toss on Tuesday.

“After he throws his bullpen, we’ll make a decision on if he needs to go on a rehab,” McWane said.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) is scheduled for another rehab start on Wednesday in Rochester, with no pitch limit.

Outfielders Jason Kubel and Denard Span continued to rehab at Triple-A as well, with both scheduled to start on Tuesday night. Kubel was set to DH for nine innings, while Span was expected to play seven innings in center field.

Through two rehab games entering Tuesday, Kubel was hitting 1-for-8 with a double and four strikeouts, while Span was 0-for-6 with a strikeout.

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Twins notebook, 7/18

July 18, 2011 Comments off

Morneau set to begin baseball activities

MINNEAPOLIS — Less than three weeks since having surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in his neck, Justin Morneau will begin baseball activities this week.Twins head trainer Rick McWane gave an update on Morneau’s progress Monday morning, and he said Morneau played catch Sunday without any issues.

“He’ll take some grounders,” McWane said. “Swinging a bat will be the last thing, but he’s ready to take ground balls, play catch and run around.”

Morneau had the surgery on June 29 and was expected to be out at least six weeks, a timeframe that would have Morneau back in action for the Twins no earlier than mid-August.

His current progress seems like it may be ahead of schedule, but it remains unclear whether it actually is.

“Maybe a little,” McWane said, “but it’s kind of early to say until he starts swinging.”

Twins decide to be cautious with Baker

MINNEAPOLIS — After Scott Baker felt stiffer than expected on Sunday, he and the Twins’ coaching and training staff decided it would be best not to push things by pitching on Monday.

If Baker had pitched the first game of the doubleheader against the Indians as scheduled, the situation could have gotten worse than it is already. Any issues with his elbow after that outing would have eliminated the Twins’ ability to backdate his trip to the disabled list.

“We all sat down and had a long conversation,” said Twins head trainer Rick McWane. “We all decided it was in his best interest not to push it and give it a couple extra days. We’d already invested 12 days or whatever it was in this, and we didn’t want to have him go out there and throw, because then you’re talking another 15 days.”

Baker’s current plan is to rest for a couple days before throwing another bullpen session. The Twins will reevaluate the right-hander at that point and decide on the next step.

McWane also gave updates on outfielders Denard Span and Jason Kubel, both of whom are rehabbing injuries with Triple-A Rochester.

Span and Kubel started Sunday’s game for the Red Wings, with Span going 0-for-3 batting leadoff and playing center field. Kubel was 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored while batting in the No. 3 spot as the designated hitter.

They’re both scheduled to play again Monday in Rochester.

“Span did fine last night. He’s going to play another five innings in the outfield today,” McWane said. “Kubel is going to play outfield today for nine innings. He had no problems yesterday.”

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, 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.

Neck surgery to extend Morneau’s stay on DL

June 24, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — It will be at least mid-August before Justin Morneau is back at first base for the Twins.Morneau, who said he has not been able to feel the index finger on his left hand since the last week of Spring Training, will have neck surgery on Wednesday to relieve a pinched nerve causing the problem. The procedure will remove a herniated disk fragment from Morneau’s neck.

“When we immobilized his wrist, it was the expectation and hopes of our doctors that the time off from swinging would also benefit his neck,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “Last week we sent him to see another neck specialist; this was our desire, our team doctors’ desire. It wasn’t something that Justin was pushing.

“That doctor decided that the best course of action would be to have surgery.”

McWane said it was a non-invasive procedure, but Morneau, who has been on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 10, was expected to be out at least six weeks after Wednesday’s surgery.

McWane also emphasized several times that it was the decision of the team doctors to have Morneau see a neck specialist, and that Morneau would have preferred to fight through it. After seeing the specialist, it was determined that surgery was the best option.

Morneau also had the cast put back on his left wrist to keep it immobilized, which will help that injury heal while he’s unable to do anything baseball-related due to the neck surgery.

“The thing that kind of made the decision was hearing that it could be permanent weakness in the arm, and numbness in the fingers and all that stuff,” Morneau said. “I’d like that to go away. That’s the plan for the surgery, hopefully that’ll be the result and I’ll come out good and be ready for August and September.

“That’s what I think the decision came down to, being able to play late in the year instead of trying to find a way to push through it and not feel very good. I could break down and need the surgery later in the year and have to sit out again.”

With Morneau out, Luke Hughes and Michael Cuddyer will likely split most of the time at first base until he returns. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire did suggest that a number of others could be options there as well, including catchers Rene Rivera and Joe Mauer.

“I’m trying everything,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve talked to Joe about it, I’ve talked to everybody about it. We’re not afraid to move people around and keep his bat in the lineup on a more everyday basis. Playing a little here, playing a little there.”

After returning from a concussion that cost him much of last season, Morneau has struggled through the first three months of this season, fighting through neck and wrist injuries. The result has been a .225 batting average, with four home runs and 21 RBIs through 55 games.

Morneau missed five games in early April with an injury, and has not played since June 9 due to the wrist injury that landed him on the DL. McWane said that the neck injury and the concussion were not related in any way.

It’s the latest in a number of injuries for Morneau in recent years. He missed the last few weeks of the 2009 season with a stress fracture in his back, and the second half of 2010 with the concussion suffered on July 7 at Toronto.

“It’s just sort of, trying to figure out if I’m doing something wrong, if there’s something wrong mechanically, if there’s something wrong training, whatever,” Morneau said. “I’m trying to look at everything to see if there’s anything I can do differently, or better or less or whatever it is.

“As frustrating as it is for fans to sit there and go, ‘You know, I’d like to see this guy play,’ it’s a million times more frustrating for me to have to sit here and watch it on TV and not be a part of it.”

The latest setback for Morneau comes just as the Twins were seemingly on the verge of getting their entire Opening Day lineup back healthy.

Designated hitter Jim Thome rejoined the club in Milwaukee and is expected back soon, which should help replace some of the power lost without Morneau in the lineup.

“You want them to get back as quick as they can,” Thome said. “[But] I think when you look at our season, and how our season’s gone, you’ve really got to look at our young guys and how they’ve stepped up.”

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, 6/14

June 14, 2011 Comments off

Morneau tries to hit, placed on disabled list

MINNEAPOLIS — First baseman Justin Morneau is the latest in a long list of Twins to hit the disabled list this season.

Morneau was placed on the 15-day DL with a left wrist strain and will have his wrist immobilized for 10 days, Twins general manager Bill Smith said after Tuesday’s rainout. The move is retroactive to June 10.

“We’re looking at this as a short-term event, but we will put him on the DL,” Smith said. “Rest, and they believe it will come around in that 10 days, plus a few days to get his range of motion back.”

The Twins will make an additional roster move before Wednesday night’s game to replace Morneau on the 25-man roster.

Morneau, who has not played since Thursday to rest his sore left wrist, had the MRI on his wrist looked at by a specialist, Dr. Thomas Varecka, who recommended a cortisone shot. After getting the cortisone shot on Sunday, Morneau hit in the cage on Tuesday and didn’t feel good.

“He came in today, said he felt pretty good, went down to the cage, took about 20 swings, and it wasn’t as good as we had hoped,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said.

After the session in the cage did not go well, Morneau was sent to see Varecka, and that meeting resulted in the decision to put Morneau on the DL.

Nishioka may rejoin Twins on Wednesday

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not official yet, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka could be back in a Twins uniform as soon as Wednesday.

Nishioka played nine innings at shortstop on Tuesday in Toledo for Triple-A Rochester, and is scheduled to travel back to the Twins Cities on Wednesday.

“What we want to do is let the doctors and trainers see him,” said Twins general manager Bill Smith. “They haven’t seen him in a long time. He’s been down in Fort Myers for a long time. So we want to let them see him before we do anything further.”

Nishioka went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, and batted .333 in three games with the Red Wings, going 4-for-12 with a double, an RBI and a walk. In four games with Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Nishioka also was 4-for-12, with a double, an RBI, two walks and a stolen base.

Before fracturing his left fibula against the Yankees on April 7 in New York, Nishioka played six games at second base for the Twins. He batted .208/.269/.519 with a double, two RBIs, two walks and a stolen base.

Since going down to Fort Myers, Nishioka has been working on turning double plays at both shortstop and second base, even spending some time with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

“Molitor did a lot of work with him,” Gardenhire said. “I talked with Moli today, and he said he actually moved around really good both sides. He’s moving around very well at shortstop, arm strength’s a lot better than Moli saw in Spring Training.”

Gardenhire and the Twins have said they plan to move Nishioka to shortstop when he returns, in part due to the nature of his leg injury. At shortstop, Nishioka will have a better view of the runner coming at him during a double play, rather than facing away from the runner while awaiting the throw as the second baseman.

In addition to working on his play at shortstop, second base and around the bag on double plays, Molitor gave Nishioka some advice on recovering from injuries, having dealt with a few during his career himself.

Molitor said he really didn’t get to see much of Nishioka before the injury, but he does like what has seen during his rehab work in continuing to adjust to the differences between baseball in Japan and the Major Leagues.

“He’s done very, very well,” Molitor said. “How well he’ll do as he comes back from not only a disappointing injury but also acclimating to Major League Baseball, I couldn’t tell you. But I do believe that, in time, he’s going to be a very good player.”