July 2011

Trade Deadline (Game 108 vs Oakland)

OAKLAND — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gave no indication whether the Twins will make any moves before today’s 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline, but it appears more and more likely the club will stand pat.

“I have no clue,” Gardenhire said. “I just read your articles, and you guys write it, and so I just try to get a lineup in, read some clips and read about our Minor Leaguers. I can’t control that other stuff.”

Gardenhire, though, is certainly aware that Twins players such as Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Kevin Slowey have been mentioned in trade rumors leading up to today’s deadline.

But recent reports indicate that the Nationals are reluctant to include closer Drew Storen in a deal for Span, and that a trade is appears unlikely at this point unless the Nationals decide to budge on their offer. And a source told Foxsports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that the Twins are not looking to trade Kubel despite heavy interest from the Pirates.

The Rockies, meanwhile, remain interested in Slowey, but it remains unclear how close the two sides are regarding a deal for the right-hander.

Gardenhire said he’s simply trying his best to keep his players loose, as Trade Deadline day is always a hectic one.

“It’s more prominent now,” Gardenhire said. “There’s more media attention on it and more speculation, and blogs and Tweets. We didn’t have all that stuff when I played. So yeah, there’s some uneasiness out there, especially if you’re a team like us trying to get back into it and trying to stay in it. We believe we can still catch people, and others might not. So it’s out there.”

Gardehire also added he expects Span, out with a concussion suffered June 3, to play in his final rehab game with Triple-A Rochester tonight before heading to Anaheim tomorrow to be ready for Tuesday’s game.

“I plan on him traveling tomorrow and being in Anaheim,” Gardenhire said. “I think he’ll play tonight and then he’ll be traveling.”

Span also had his say this morning via Twitter regarding the recent trade rumors.

“Good morning everyone!,” Span wrote. “I just woke up and read the star tribune article with people’s comments! Smh. A lot of people read things and form an opinion very quick. This will be my last tweet for a lil bit. I want to be in a twins uniform after today and for the rest of the deal I signed a year ago! To my teammates that I hope I see again u guys know what type of person and team player I am.”

Lineups for the 3:05 p.m. CT start at the Oakland Coliseum:

Twins (50-57)
1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Joe Mauer, 1B
3. Michael Cuddyer, 2B
4. Jason Kubel, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
9. Drew Butera, C

RHP Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.60 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 3.77 K/BB)

Athletics (48-59)
1. Jemile Weeks, 2B
2. Coco Crisp, CF
3. Hideki Matsui, DH
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Conor Jackson, 1B
6. Ryan Sweeney, RF
7. Cliff Pennington, SS
8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. Scott Sizemore, 3B

RHP Brandon McCarthy (3-5, 3.52 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 3.75 K/BB)

Casilla to the DL (Game 105 vs. Texas)

ARLINGTON — The Twins received a blow to their middle infield today, as second baseman Alexi Casilla was diagnosed with a Grade 1 hamstring strain, and is expected to be out for two to three weeks, according to head trainer Rick McWane.

Casilla, who injured himself while legging out a double in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 7-2 win against the Rangers, is scheduled to be placed on the disabled list after tonight’s game. Infielder Luke Hughes is expected to be recalled in his place.

Additionally, to bolster their middle infield depth, the Twins recalled second baseman Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester, and optioned left-hander Chuck James to Rochester to give the Twins 12 pitchers on their active roster.

“He’s our second-hole hitter and was swinging great and playing great defense,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Casilla. “He’s doing all the things you’d like to see, and his head has been in the game. And then all of a sudden this happens. Our depth in the middle infield isn’t the greatest, so you can’t afford too many injuries like that. Some people will have to step up.”

Casilla, who was hitting .259/.322/.369 with 15 stolen bases and a team-high 21 doubles in 96 games this season, said he’s hopeful that he can return to action as soon as he’s eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Aug. 12.

“It’s pretty much the same as yesterday,” Casilla said. “I kind of pulled it a little bit, so I’m going on the DL and going back to Minnesota to take care of it over there. I don’t think I’ll need a [rehab] assignment. I’ll be ready in 15 days. … I hope they don’t send me on an assignment. I’ll say no because it’s too much time.”

In the meantime, the Twins will have to rely on a combination of Tolbert, Hughes and Trevor Plouffe at second base with Casilla out of action.

Tolbert, who hit .181 in 55 games with the Twins before being optioned on July 18, started at second base against the Rangers on Thursday.

And shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka is expected to bat second in Casilla’s absence, as Gardenhire said he’s hopeful he can handle the bat the way Casilla did in the two-hole.

“I’m hoping Nishi handles it very well,” Gardenhire said. “When we signed him, we were hoping he’d be at the top of the lineup. So maybe this will get his confidence going a little bit.”

Kubel in RF, batting fifth (Game 99 vs. Tigers)

MINNEAPOLIS — Jason Kubel was activated from the disabled list last night, and is back in the starting lineup tonight against the Tigers, playing right field and batting fifth.

Kubel, who sprained his left foot in Detroit on May 30, missed 47 games with the injury but finally is making his long-awaited return after missing seven weeks.

He brings a powerful left-handed hitting bat into the lineup, as he was the club’s most consistent hitter before his injury, hitting .310/.355/.465 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 52 games.

“It’s exciting,” said Kubel, who is 2-for-4 in his career against Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer. “I feel like I’m not starting over, but in a way, kinda because it’s been nearly two months. I’m looking forward to it.”

Lineups for the 7:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Tigers (52-46):
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Ryan Raburn, LF
3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, DH
5. Victor Martinez, 1B
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Carlos Guillen, 2B
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Wilson Betemit, 3B

RHP Max Scherzer (10-5, 4.53 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 2.68 K/BB)

Twins (46-52):
1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, RF
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Jim Thome, DH
8. Delmon Young, LF
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

LHP Brian Duensing (7-7, 4.14 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 2.95 K/BB)

Kubel expected to be activated (Game 98 vs. Tigers)

MINNEAPOLIS — Jason Kubel, who was out with a sprained left foot suffered May 30, is expected to be activated from the disabled list after tonight’s game against the Tigers, and could be back in the lineup tomorrow.

Kubel played nine innings in right field with Triple-A Rochester this morning and flew back to the Twin Cities after the game. He’s expected to be reevaluated upon his return, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he expects Kubel to play tomorrow.

“I called Kubel last night and he’s seeing the ball great and feeling good,” Gardenhire said. “He hit an opposite-field homer and three hits yesterday and another hit today. He says he feels great and has no problem with his foot.”

Kubel, who made two rehab stints with the Red Wings because of a setback suffered on June 30, finished with a .333 average and a .984 OPS in five games.

He also was the Twins’ most consistent hitter before his injury, as he was batting .310/.355/.465 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 52 games with the Twins.

Gardenhire now is faced with the task of working Kubel into a crowded lineup, as if Kubel starts in right field, it pushes Michael Cuddyer to another position such as first base, and if he serves as designated hitter, it means Jim Thome is on the bench. But Gardenhire views it as a good problem to have.

“I’ll take my chances,” Gardenhire said. “I’ll find a way. Believe me. We’ve been really right-handed, and I’d like some more pop left-handed.”

Gardenhire added there’s a “really good chance” that a pitcher will be sent to Triple-A upon Kubel’s return with left-handers Scott Diamond and Chuck James the most likely candidates.

Lineups for the 7:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Tigers (51-46)

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Brennan Boesch, LF
3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Victor Martinez, DH
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Carlos Guillen, 2B
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Wilson Betemit, 3B

RHP Justin Verlander (12-5, 2.29 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 4.64 K/BB)

Twins (46-51)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
9. Drew Butera, C

RHP Carl Pavano (6-6, 4.08 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 2.24 K/BB)

Mauer chooses first base (Game 97 vs. Indians)

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gave Joe Mauer the option of catching or playing first base against the Indians today.

Mauer had the choice to start at his natural position behind the plate or play first base for just the fourth time in his career but for the third straight day, including the first game of Monday’s double-header.

“He said, ‘First base sounds great,’” Gardenhire said.

So while the decision to play first base seemed like somewhat of a surprise, Gardenhire said he was perfectly fine with the decision because the Twins are in the midst of a stretch in which they play 19 games in 18 days coming out of the All-Star break.

Mauer also could see time at first base again tomorrow– or at designated hitter — as right-hander Carl Pavano is scheduled to start against the Tigers and has Drew Butera as his personal backstop.

“He’s played every game, every inning so I kinda expected that,” Gardenhire said. “The original plan was to catch him today because Pav is out there tomorrow, but I’m kinda happy he’s going play first base today because it’s going to be hot. And it gives him a couple days for him to get away from the squatting. We’re playing a lot of games in a row here so we need his bat in there every day and first base is a breather.”

Lineups for the 12:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Indians (51-45)

1. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Travis Hafner, DH
4. Carlos Santana, C
5. Matt LaPorta, 1B
6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
8. Austin Kearns, RF
9. Luis Valbuena, LF

RHP Josh Tomlin (11-4, 4.03 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 4.53 K/BB)

Twins (45-51)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Delmon Young, LF
8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
9. Drew Butera, C

RHP Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.99 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 1.85 K/BB)

Mauer back at catcher (Game 87 vs. White Sox)

CHICAGO — Joe Mauer is back at catcher tonight after playing first base yesterday.

And Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wanted to clarify comments made by Joe Mauer after last night’s game, when he reiterated he’s still a catcher despite impressing in his first career start at first base.

Gardenhire simply wanted to make it clear that Mauer will remain the club’s catcher moving forward, but that the four-time All-Star has no problems with playing first base to get his bat in the lineup with Justin Morneau out until mid-August.

“He’s a catcher and he’ll do whatever we ask,” Gardenhire said. “But he wants it known he’s a catcher and he feels really good behind the plate and loves running the game. But we can use him at first base and we’ll be able to do that in the second half to keep his bat in the lineup and also give him those days from getting beat up from behind the plate.”

Gardenhire then dropped a hint that Mauer could even play the outfield, but later said it was just a statement to show that Mauer is willing to do whatever is asked of him.

“If [Jim] Thome can play, you can put Mauer at first, and it’s not even an issue, which is really cool,” Gardenhire said. “And if Morny comes back, like he’s going to do in August, we might have him play in the outfield somewhere too. Oh, write that one. Look at the Tweets right now. Look at the bloggers firing it through now. Who knows? He’ll do whatever we want him to do just to keep his bat in the lineup.”

Gardenhire then was asked if his comments were tongue in cheek, and confirmed it was more of a hypothetical situation than anything else.

“I love it. I absolutely love it. I’m trying to explain to you that he’ll play wherever and if I ask Joe to play right field or left field, he’ll say, “OK, if that’s what you need.’” Gardenhire said. “That’s the point I’m trying to get across. If I ask him to do that, he’ll give it a go.”

Twins (39-47)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Danny Valencia, DH
6. Rene Tosoni, LF
7. Luke Hughes, 1B
8. Tsuysho Nishioka, SS
9. Matt Tolbert, 3B

RHP Nick Blackburn (6-6, 4.02 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 1.86 K/BB)

White Sox (43-46)

1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
3. Paul Konerko, 1B
4. Adam Dunn, DH
5. Carlos Quentin, RF
6. Alex Rios, CF
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
9. Brent Morel, 3B

RHP Gavin Floyd (6-8, 4.17 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 2.75 K/BB)

Mauer starts at first (Game 86 vs. White Sox)

CHICAGO — After playing in 863 games, including 741 behind the plate, Joe Mauer will be making his first career start at first base tonight against the White Sox.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced the move yesterday, but made it official today, batting Mauer third and starting him at first base with Drew Butera getting the nod at catcher, as he’s Carl Pavano’s personal catcher.

“Mauer is playing first base,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “With [Jim] Thome in the lineup, this is a good thing, and with Butera catching Pavano it’s a normal thing. So the way to keep his bat in the lineup, as we talked about a number of times, is to have him at first base. It gives him a chance to rest his legs a little bit and get away from squatting.”

Mauer, who started taking ground balls at first base during batting practice on June 27, hasn’t played the position since appearing in one game there with Class A Fort Myers in 2003. He last saw extended time at first back when he played 13 games there with Class A Quad Cities in 2002.

“I think he’s got a little anxiety about playing first base, but I think that’s normal,” Gardenhire said. “It’s been a long time since he’s done that. But I told him, once he gets out to first base, he’s going to see it’s easy compared to what he’s been doing all these years.”

Mauer, who is borrowing one of Michael Cuddyer’s gloves, took grounders during early batting practice before tonight’s game, as Gardenhire gave him pointers about positioning, holding on runners and how to handle bunts and slow rollers.

“Just all the little things to make sure even though we’ve talked about it all before to reiterate it,” Gardenhire said of his talk with Mauer. “I don’t want him to get killed over there. A ball up the line he needs to catch the ball and get off the line and do a catcher sweep tag. I don’t want him jumping into the basepaths or anything like that.”

Lineups for the 7:10 p.m. CT start at U.S. Cellular Field:

Twins (38-47)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Rene Tosoni, LF
8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
9. Drew Butera, C

RHP Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.19 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 2.23 K/BB)

White Sox (43-45)

1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Omar Vizquel, 3B
3. Paul Konerko, 1B
4. Adam Dunn, DH
5. Alex Rios, CF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
8. Mark Teahen, RF
9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

RHP Phil Humber (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 2.42 K/BB)

Mauer likely to play first tomorrow (Game 85 vs. Rays)

MINNEAPOLIS — Catcher Joe Mauer was held out of the lineup today against the Rays after taking a foul tip to his shoulder, but is expected to return to action tomorrow in Chicago and will likely play first base for the first time in his big league career.

Mauer, who has been taking ground balls at first base during batting practice since June 27, hasn’t played first base since playing one game there with Class A Fort Myers in 2003.

“Joe Mauer will probably play first base with Jim Thome at DH and Drew Butera catching,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Joe’s not going to play today. He’s a little beat up, which is understandable. I saw his swing last night and looked a little sore. That’s going to be expected.”

Mauer is being called to action at first with Justin Morneau out until at least mid-August after undergoing surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment from his neck last week. It will be a change of pace for Mauer, who last saw extended time at first when he played 13 games there with Class A Quad Cities in 2002.

“He’s fine,” Gardenhire said. “But you won’t really know until you get him into a game. He’s pretty fluid over there to tell you the truth. He has soft hands and moves around pretty good. All the fundamental parts of it will be a learning experience for him.”

With Mauer out of the lineup today, Rene Rivera makes the start, as he has worked well with left-hander Francisco Liriano this season. Liriano entered Wednesday with a 1.91 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 10 walks in 33 innings with Rivera behind the plate this season.

Lineups for the 12:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Rays (47-39)

1. Johnny Damon, DH
2. Ben Zobrist, RF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. B.J. Upton, CF
5. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. Justin Ruggiano, LF
8. Kelly Shoppach, C
9. Eliot Johnson, SS

RHP Wade Davis (7-6, 4.20 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.31 K/BB)

TWINS (38-46)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Danny Valencia, 3B
6. Rene Tosoni, LF
7. Jason Repko, RF
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

LHP Francisco Liriano (5-7, 4.76 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 1.66 K/BB)

Baker exits after five innings

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins right-hander Scott Baker exited tonight’s game against the Rays after five innings with a mild right elbow strain. Baker is scheduled to be reevaluated tomorrow.

Baker was cruising against the Rays, having allowed just an unearned run on three hits and a walk over five innings before exiting due to the injury. Baker also struck out three and threw 62 pitches, with 44 going for strikes. He was removed in favor of left-hander Phil Dumatrait in the sixth inning.

Baker, who was considered a candidate to be an All-Star this season, lowered his ERA to 3.01 on the year and has 104 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings.

He is scheduled to make his next turn in the rotation on Sunday against the White Sox in the last game before the All-Star break, but his status for that start is yet to be determined.

Morneau talks neck surgery (Game 84 vs. Rays)

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins first baseman Justin Morneau returned to Target Field for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment on his neck today and told reporters the procedure went well.

Morneau, who is expected to be out until mid-August, said the plan is to rest for the next ten to 14 days before ramping up his baseball activities. He also had his cast removed from his sprained left wrist on Friday.

“I haven’t really been able to do much,” Morneau said. “I’m feeling better every day, getting more range of motion every day. As a bonus, the wrist felt a lot better when we got the cast off. It actually felt a lot better this time than when they took the cast off the first time. I thought I was going to be more stiff. It’s going good. Still a ways away, unfortunately. It’s getting better.”

Morneau, though, said he still has numbness in his left index finger, but that he hopes it’ll go away with time. But he added the pain in his neck and shoulder that plagued him before the surgery has started to subside.

“The sort of pain down my arm has felt better than it did,” said Morneau, who will have stitches removed from his neck tommorow. “It’s hard to tell right now, because I don’t have the range of motion yet. It doesn’t feel normal yet. It’s still sore from the surgery.”

The 2006 American League MVP also said he doesn’t think the injury will keep him out the entire season like last year, when a concussion suffered July 7 kept him out of action the rest of the season. He said this injury is less frustrating than the concussion because at least there’s a timetable this time.

“It shouldn’t be [season-ending],” Morneau said. “That’s the reason we did it. If that was the case, we would have waited until the offseason. This was with the hopes of being able to play that last month-and-a-half, close to two months healthy and go into the offseason healthy, and hopefully talk about the playoffs and hopefully be healthy for the playoffs. That was the goal, instead of wait until the end and all of the sudden it’s going on longer and that’s an entire miserable season, instead of finishing on a good note.”

Lineups for the 7:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Rays (47-38)

1. Johhny Damon, DH
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Matt Joyce, RF
5. B.J. Upton, CF
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. John Jaso, C
8. Sam Fuld, LF
9. Elliot Johnson, SS

RHP James Shields, (8-5, 2.45 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 4.23 K/BB)

Twins (37-46)

1. Ben Revere CF
2. Alexi Casilla 2B
3. Joe Mauer C
4. Michael Cuddyer 1B
5. Jim Thome DH
6. Danny Valencia 3B
7. Rene Tosoni LF
8. Jason Repko RF
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka SS

RHP Scott Baker (6-5, 3.15 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 3.48 K/BB)

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