August 2011

Indians claim Thome, White Sox claim Kubel

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins designated hitter Jim Thome was claimed on waivers by the Indians, while the White Sox were awarded the waiver claim on Twins outfielder Jason Kubel, according to a FOXSports.com report.

Minnesota has until noon CT tomorrow to work out deals with the claiming teams, but can also pull the claimed players back off waivers.

The Twins, however, did not offer a comment, as waiver moves are supposed to be confidential, per Major League rules.

Thome, who has a no-trade clause and has never won a World Series, declined to state whether he’d accept a trade to a contender when asked earlier this week.

The Indians enter today six games back of the first-place Tigers in the American League Central, and it’s unclear whether he would OK a trade to Cleveland.

Thome did play there for the first 12 seasons of his career from 1991-2002, and could be a fit considering Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner is on the disabled list with a right foot strain.

Kubel, meanwhile, also makes sense for the White Sox, who are 6 1/2 games out, because outfielder Carlos Quentin has been bothered by a shoulder injury.

But he currently projects as a Type B free agent, and could even achieve Type A status, so the Twins would want a good return to make up for losing a compensation pick, or possibly two, in next year’s First-Year Player Draft.

Gibson gets second opinion on injured right elbow

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson received a second opinion from Dr. David Altchek on his injured right elbow in New York yesterday, according to general manager Bill Smith.

Gibson, who was officially diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow and a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament on Aug. 9, is still expected to avoid Tommy John surgery for now.

“Dr. Altchek recommended continued rehabilitation in Fort Myers, [Fla.] and we will reevaluate after the initial phase of the rehab program,” Smith said.

Gibson still could undergo Tommy John surgery in the offseason, but the club is hopeful he can avoid the surgery through rehab.

Gibson, 23, was originally placed on the Minor League disabled list with soreness in the flexor muscle area near his elbow before undergoing an MRI. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is the 33rd-ranked prospect in baseball and No. 2 in the Twins’ system, according to MLB.com.

Gibson, the club’s first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had struggled before hitting the DL, as he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA in eight starts over June and July. It came after he entered June with a 3.60 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 55 innings.

Mauer to play RF vs. Yankees

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Mauer can now add right field to his list of positions he’s played in his big league career.

Mauer, who also made his debut at first base earlier this year, is scheduled to make his first-ever start in right field tonight against the Yankees.

Mauer was forced to play in the outfield for the first time in his professional career, as the club has seen a recent rash of injuries hit players such as Michael Cuddyer, Matt Tolbert and Denard Span. Outfielder Jason Kubel is also out of action, as he’s attending to a family matter in San Diego.

Span, who is still dealing with concussion symptoms, is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list, but Luke Hughes missed his flight to the Twin Cities, and the roster move has yet to be announced.

Mauer said he never even played outfield in high school, but remembers playing outfield in amateur town ball games in Minnesota.

“I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve played in the outfield ever,” Mauer said. “It’s been an interesting year. Hopefully, it’s just today and we can get some guys in here, and it’s just a one-time deal.”

Mauer, who used Kubel’s glove while catching fly balls during batting practice, said he didn’t find out he’d be playing right field until 3 p.m., and that Justin Morneau was the other alternative.

“I’m just working on catching the ball,” Mauer said. “Once I get the ball I don’t think I’ll have a problem. I don’t think I’ll have a problem throwing. It’s just getting the angles, the wind and way the ball comes off the bat.”

Morneau, Casilla to rejoin Twins on Friday

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced today that first baseman Justin Morneau and second baseman Alexi Casilla will be activated from the disabled list prior to Friday’s game in Cleveland.

Morneau, who underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment in his neck on June 29, wasn’t expected to rejoin the team until Monday at the earliest.

But the slugger has looked impressive so far in five games with Triple-A Rochester, hitting .409 with four doubles and five RBIs. He’s expected to play with the Red Wings tonight and tomorrow before being activated in time for Friday’s game against the Indians.

“He’s killing the ball,” Gardenhire said. “He’s swinging really good, and feels great. He basically said, “Get me out of here, please. It’s really hot in Durham.’”

Morneau was originally placed on the disabled list, retroactive to June 10, with a sprained left wrist, before electing to undergo neck surgery later in the month. He was hitting .225 with a .619 OPS along with four homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games before hitting the DL.

He was bothered by problems with his neck and left wrist all season before his trip to the disabled list.

It’s been a tough year and a half for the first baseman, as he missed the second half of last year with a concussion suffered on July 7 in Toronto. He was putting up MVP-type numbers before the season-ending injury, as he was hitting .345 with a 1.055 OPS and 18 homers in 81 games.

Gardenhire said he’s hopeful that now that Morneau is fully healthy again, he can get back to his old ways.

“If we get the guy back who is driving the ball the other now, and the guy who we’ve seen hit and be healthy, then I think it’ll be real entertaining to watch him,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve seen how he can carry a ballclub. If we can get him back and keep him on the field, it will be really entertaining not only for the rest of this year, but maybe having a guy healthy for the start of next year, and we’ll go from there.”

Casilla, meanwhile, made quick progress with his strained right hamstring, and will be activated on the first day he’s eligible to return.

Casilla has been taking batting and fielding practice, as well as participating in running drills, this week at Target Field, and is ready to make his return, according to Gardenhire.

“Casilla feels fantastic,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll be activated for Friday night’s game in Cleveland. His legs feel good. He’s running. The whole package.”

Casilla was hitting .259/.322/.369 with 15 stolen bases and 21 doubles in 96 games this season before injuring his hamstring while running the bases against the Rangers in Texas on July 27.

He bounced back after a rough start, as he hit just .167 in April, but hit .281 with a .751 OPS over the next three months before his injury.

“I think we saw him starting off scuffling a little bit, but as the season has gone along, he’s been one of our better players,” Gardenhire said. “We all know about the athleticism and the plays this guy can make. But we’re seeing that consistency we saw a few years ago, and that’s all it’s ever been about with Alexi.”

Outfielder Jason Repko and infielders Trevor Plouffe and Matt Tolbert are candidates to be optioned on Triple-A Rochster when Morneau and Casilla return.

Gibson, Slama to avoid Tommy John surgery

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson was diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow and a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, and will head to Fort Myers, Fla. this week to begin strengthening and flexibility exercises of the right shoulder and elbow, according to general manager Bill Smith.

Gibson is expected to avoid Tommy John surgery for now, as the estimated return for him will be determined after the initial phase of his rehab program.

Fellow Triple-A Rochester right-hander Anthony Slama was also diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow, and will head to Florida to begin his rehab process along with Gibson.

Both pitchers underwent MRIs last week and met with team orthopedists, Dr. Dan Buss and Dr. John Steubs, on Monday, before undergoing further testing on Tuesday.

Gibson, 23, was originally placed on the Minor League disabled list with soreness in the flexor muscle area near his elbow and underwent an MRI on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is the 33rd-ranked prospect in baseball and No. 2 in the Twins’ system, according to MLB.com.

Gibson, the club’s first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had been struggling recently, as he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA in eight starts over June and July. It came after he entered June with a 3.60 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 55 innings.

Slama, meanwhile, was placed on the Minor League disabled list on July 6 because of elbow soreness. The reliever posted a 2.92 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 37 innings with Triple-A Rochester before his injury. The 26-year-old also tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings with the Twins this year in a brief stint with the club from late May into early June.

Baker to DL, Slowey to start Sunday

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins right-hander Scott Baker was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right flexor muscle strain today, and right-hander Kevin Slowey will be activated before Friday’s game in Cleveland and is scheduled to start on Sunday.

Baker, who allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings in the Twins’ 8-6 loss to the Red Sox last night, missed 14 games in mid-July after being placed on the disabled list with a right flexor muscle strain on July 7.

He said after Monday’s start that his elbow “feels average,” and meet with team doctors on Tuesday before deciding it would be best to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Baker, who had a 3.01 ERA in 17 starts before his injury, had a 4.29 ERA over his last four outings after being activated from the disabled list on July 23. But he’s been the club’s most consistent starter this year, with a 3.21 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings.

Slowey, meanwhile, posted a 3.60 ERA with 38 strikeouts and six walks in seven starts totaling 50 innings with Triple-A Rochester.

He originally made five starts with Rochester as part of a rehab assignment because of a strained abdominal muscle that landed him on the disabled list on May 21. He was activated from the disabled list on July 21, but remained in the Minors because the club didn’t have an open spot in its rotation.

Slowey began the season in the Twins’ bullpen, but had trouble staying healthy in his new role, as he was also placed on the disabled list on April 9 with right shoulder bursitis and didn’t return until June 17.

He has a 4.91 ERA in six relief appearances with the Twins this year, with seven strikeouts and one walk over 14 2/3 innings.

Slowey was also a candidate to be traded before the July 31 Trade Deadline, and could still be dealt before Aug. 31. But it’s a complicated process, as deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers.

In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded to a team other than the club that claimed him. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, work out a trade or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.

Baker to meet with doctors tomorrow

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins right-hander Scott Baker has been dealing with lingering discomfort in his throwing elbow, and is scheduled to meet with team doctors tomorrow to see if he needs to be placed on the 15-day disabled list for a second time this season.

Baker, who allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings in the Twins’ 8-6 loss to the Red Sox tonight, missed 14 games in mid-July after being placed on the disabled list with a right flexor muscle strain on July 7.

He said his elbow “feels average,” and that he wants to meet with the club’s training staff to see if he can pitch through the discomfort.

“I have no problem pitching with some discomfort as long as it’s something that won’t get worse,” Baker said. “I am OK with it being a little sore. But if you’re not effective because of it, it’s a different story.”

Baker, who had a 3.01 ERA in 17 starts before his injury, has a 4.29 ERA in four outings since being activated from the disabled list on July 23.

“This game is very demanding and you have to be at the top physically,” said Baker, who is 8-6 with a 3.21 ERA on the season. “So it’s been tough. It’s tough getting the work in in-between [starts]. So we have to talk about it tomorrow and see what they want to do.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire met with Baker and the training staff after tonight’s game, and said the club will do what’s best for Baker after meeting again tomorrow.

“We’ll check some things out and see how he feels tomorrow, and then make a decision on what we’re going to do,” Gardenhire said. “He wasn’t feeling great, but he got through it. But it’s not a perfect situation so we’re going to talk to everybody and see the best route to go.”

Baker said he doesn’t want to miss time due to injury, but seemed resigned to going on the disabled list if that’s what the doctors think he should do.

“You don’t want to be the guy who goes on the DL if that’s the decision they make,” Baker said. “But you have to do what’s best for the team and for yourself individually.”

Morneau to begin rehab assignment Friday

ANAHEIM — First baseman Justin Morneau, who underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment in his neck on June 29, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester tomorrow, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received the news from general manager Bill Smith.

“He’s flying out tonight and heading to Norfolk, Va. to meet the team and will begin a rehab assignment,” Gardenhire said. “I talked to Billy today, and he said that Morneau is chomping at the bit and ready to go. So we’ll see. I haven’t seen him, so I can’t tell you anything other than he’s ready to go in his opinion.”

Morneau, who started swinging the bat last Friday and has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at Target Field this week, was cleared by the Twins’ medical staff to make his return.

Morneau, who is hitting .225 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games this year, was originally placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 10 with a sprained left wrist, before electing to undergo neck surgery later in the month. But Morneau is feeling healthy enough to start playing in games, despite undergoing surgery just a little more than a month ago.

“Physically, Tony Leo, our trainer, says there are no limitations,” Gardenhire said. “So we’re letting him go.”

Gardenhire, though, said he doesn’t have a timetable for Morneau’s return, as he’s not sure how many at-bats he’ll need before he’s ready to be activated from the disabled list to rejoin the Twins.

“I haven’t seen the schedule or what the plans are,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play five innings the first day or two. I haven’t seen anything. … He’s really believing that he’ll join us really soon, but I’m not buying that.”

Gibson could need Tommy John surgery

ANAHEIM — Twins top prospect Kyle Gibson was placed on the Minor League disabled list with a right flexor mass and underwent an MRI today, and is expected to receive the results on Monday.

Gibson, who is expected to fly to Minneapolis on Sunday, will have the results of his MRI examined by team physicians Dr. John Steubs and Dr. Daniel Buss tomorrow. The Twins are worried the 23-year-old could need Tommy John surgery.

Gibson, a 6-foot-6 right-hander who was the club’s first-round Draft pick in 2009, had his start with Triple-A Rochester skipped on July 27 after experiencing soreness near his elbow. He has a 3-8 record and a 4.81 ERA in 18 starts this season, with 91 strikeouts and 27 walks over 95 1/3 innings.

“You’re always concerned it might be the ulnar nerve,” Twins Minor League director Jim Rantz said by telephone. “I think we’ve got to wait until we get a reading from our doctors. But there’s enough concern that we’re bringing him to Minnesota.”

Fellow Rochester right-hander Anthony Slama, who was placed on the Minor League disabled list on July 6, is also scheduled to head to Minneapolis for tests on his elbow.

“He’s been out a while and doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” Rantz said.

Span makes return to lineup (Game 109 vs. Angels)

ANAHEIM — Nearly two months after suffering a concussion in a home-plate collision with Royals catcher Brayan Pena on June 3, Denard Span is scheduled to make his return to the lineup tonight against the Angels, leading off and playing center field.

Span, who was originally placed on the seven-day disabled list on June 9 after playing in one game on June 6 against the Tigers after suffering his concussion, said he is nervous about his first game back.

“I almost feel like it’s my debut again,” Span said. “I’ve been gone for a while, and I’m definitely looking forward to get Day 1 out of the way. It’s kind of similar to when I went to Rochester a couple weeks ago.”

Span played in 10 rehab games with Triple-A Rochester, hitting .205 with a double and three stolen bases before being officially activated from the disabled before tonight’s game. Infielder Luke Hughes was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Sunday to make room for him on the roster.

Span, who missed 48 games, said the concussion was especially tough because it was difficult to put a timetable on his return.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “You would think I would be mentally refreshed right now from not playing, not going 0-for-4, 0-for-5 for the past two months, but if anything I feel a little like I’ve been through a war these past two months. But I think it’s made me stronger.”

Span also talked about how he felt regarding the trade rumors that swirled last week, as he was linked to the Nationals in a trade that would’ve sent closer Drew Storen to Minnesota. He said he was “very surprised” to hear his name in trade rumors, but understands it was part of the business.

“When I signed that deal a year ago, I thought I would be here five years, at least four,” said Span, who signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract extension before last season that includes an option for 2015. “I thought at least close to free agency, if they had to do what they had to do. But I didn’t think by the second year I’d be talked about getting out of here. So that was definitely a surprise.”

Span also added he would be OK with playing a corner outfield spot, if necessary, as the Twins have a crowded outfield with Ben Revere, Delmon Young, Jason Repko, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel on the roster. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Span will be in center, as Span didn’t want to play in any games in left or right field during his rehab stint.

“We talked before, about doing that in the Minor Leagues, but we didn’t get that done,” Gardenhire said. “So he’s in the big leagues, in center field.”

Span, who was hitting .294 with a .361 on-base percentage in 56 games before hitting the disabled list, also said he expects to have similar production the rest of the season.

“I haven’t played in two months but I hold myself to high expectations,” Span said. “I’m going to get back to where I was. When, I don’t know? But I’m going to get back there. I’m going to work and do what I have to do, whether it’s in the cage, or on the field or whatever and do whatever it takes to get back to that feeling. I’d be lying to you right now, if I told you I felt like I felt right before I got hurt. But you know, it’s going to come.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers