May 2014

Pelfrey diagnosed with ulnar nerve irritation

NEW YORK — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey had his throwing shoulder and elbow examined in Minnesota on Friday, and irritation was found in his ulnar nerve in his elbow but both his elbow and shoulder were structurally sound.

Pelfrey, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, complained of shoulder soreness after his most recent rehab start with Triple-A Rochester. So he flew to the Twin Cities to get both his shoulder and elbow examined to determine the problem.

The shoulder was fine but an MRI exam on his elbow found some nerve irritation and scar tissue in his elbow. Pelfrey will take anti-inflammatories for now but is expected to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. Dr. Andrews performed Pelfrey’s Tommy John surgery on his elbow in May of 2012.

“They looked at his shoulder and it looked great so they looked at this elbow and there was a little bit of irritation in the ulnar nerve, which was transposed when he had the surgery,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “They said that’s not abnormal or a major thing. They’re hoping to treat it with anti-inflammatories.”

Pelfrey had seen his velocity decrease this season, and the Twins are hopeful they’ve now found the root of his problem. He’d also been dealing with some tingling in his fingers, which is something he felt before the Tommy John surgery and is believed to be related to the nerve issue in his elbow.

“Hopefully we’re getting to the bottom of it with him,” Antony said. “We’re going to try to treat it with anti-inflammatories and if he needs surgery, it’ll be very minor and just clean up some scar tissue.”

Ron Gardenhire talks about Mauer’s struggles

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had plenty to say about Joe Mauer while speaking to the media before Thursday’s game against the Rangers.

Mauer is off to an uncharacteristically slow start, and was the subject of boos on Wednesday, when he failed to come through with a runner at third base with two outs in the seventh in Minnesota’s eventual 1-0 loss.

Here’s what Gardenhire had to say about Mauer, who entered Thursday hitting .277/.356/.356 with two homers and six doubles in 45 games this season:

He’s hitting a lot of balls hard. The way they’re playing him and pitching him If he were in Boston, he’d be hitting .400. I mean, how many rockets he’s hit out to left field, deep. He’d be pounding that wall. But he’s not in Boston, and they’re playing him oppo. He’s ripping balls that way, and you just go through it. I don’t know if you start counting all the balls that this guy hits on the button. I can promise you it’s as many as anybody in the league. He hits it on the barrel of the bat.

(On the expectations he faces)
The expectations are very high for him. People get frustrated. I just don’t want Joe to get frustrated. I know he is a little bit right now, because he doesn’t have the results that he wants. But I don’t want to put any more pressure on the guy. He goes out and plays, and he gets after it pretty good and he works hard. He’s got a great swing. No one wants to win more than that guy. I’m not going to bench him. I’m going to just leave him in there.

(Does he look more frustrated?)
He’s always shown that side of him (frustration), where he goes into a game and hits some balls right at people, or has a bad at-bat against a guy – which, believe it or not, he does every once in a while – a guy throws some pitches that are pretty good. But he’s always done that (get frustrated). You just don’t see it. In the dugout, a lot of things happen that you guys don’t see. Yeah, he can get pretty tense. Believe me, he can.

(Is he being more selective?)
He’s actually jumped on some more first pitches, trying to ambush people a little bit. Trying different things. He wants to do well. He wants to win. He wants to do all those things and help the team, and he’s trying to figure out different ways to do it. Look to jerk a ball early in the count, all those things. He’s been doing that. More this year than he has in the past. But he’s still not afraid to take pitches, and he’s one of the best hitters in the game as far as I’m concerned with two strikes. It’s incredible how much solid contact the guy makes with two strikes. He can do those things that other people can’t.

I know he’s a little flustered. Last night was disappointing, we lose one-nothing. He had chances, along with a few other guys. You know what? He takes a lot of pride with that stuff.

(Does he need to change his approach to stop hitting where they’re playing him in left?)
I don’t think you can guide ‘em. All you can do is put a good swing on ‘em and barrel it. That’s what he has to continue doing, just barrel the baseball. You start trying to guide it and do this and that, you start getting into trouble doing something you’re not used to. He’s made adjustments.

But right now, I don’t know how many times he’s lined out to left field. He’s hit balls right down the left field line on the line and you’ve got an outfielder standing there. That’s the way they’re playing it, and those used to be hits, so… you know, with all the videos, all the systems, these charts that people throw out there, people are playing him a little bit differently. For him to say, ‘Well, I’m gonna quit hitting it there,’ I don’t know about that. I’d keep hitting it on the screws and take my chances. And that’s what he does. He hits it hard.

The kid can hit. And you know what? I think it’s an eye-opener when we say, ‘Joe Mauer is struggling a little bit.’ It’s an eye-opener for everybody because you’re just not used to seeing that or hearing that. It’s really hard to fathom for him because he’s such a good hitter.

(On the boos in seventh inning)
It’s part of the game for everybody. I know it’s not been a big part for Joe around here, but it’s part of the game. Fans are frustrated. They show it. It’s always been part of the game. I think for Joe, he hears it, believe me. We all hear it. You know what? People have the right to do whatever they want to do when they come in this ballpark. I just hope that he doesn’t put more pressure on himself. I want him to just keep swinging, and he’ll be fine.

Everybody has a right to go out there and make their statements. You can’t control that stuff. Let me tell you what: If he played in cities like where I played [New York], it’s tougher than it is here. We’ve got pretty good fans. They get fired up a little bit, and you guys read it, and you hear it from all your side of it. But it’s still pretty mild compared to most places.

Buxton’s MRI exam shows he aggravated wrist injury

MINNEAPOLIS — Top prospect Byron Buxton had an MRI exam on his left wrist in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, and the exam showed he aggravated his original wrist injury from Spring Training.

Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, originally sprained the pisotriquetral joint in his wrist while diving for a fly ball in center field during a Minor League Spring Training game on March 16.

He reinjured it on Thursday while sliding into a base in his fifth game of the year at Class A Advanced Fort Myers. He was placed on the 7-day Minor League disabled list on Sunday as a result.

Buxton flew to Minnesota to have his wrist examined by team doctors and hand specialist Dr. Thomas Varecka on Tuesday, and will head back to Fort Myers, Fla. to work out at extended Spring Training but the Twins don’t have a timetable for his return to game action yet.

“It was an aggravation of his injury, but it’s not any worse, just aggravated,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He’ll head back down to Fort Myers and work out at extended until it feels better basically.”

Buxton returned to action in extended Spring Training on April 26 before being activated from the Minor League disabled list at Class A Advanced Fort Myers on May 4. He hit .150 (3-for-20) with a double, a homer and two RBIs in five games before suffering the injury on Thursday.

The Twins are hopeful the injury won’t keep him out as long as last time but it’s still too early to tell, according to Antony.

“We hope not, and [the doctors] don’t think so, but you never know,” Antony said. “We can’t rule anything out. They don’t believe so but whenever you have a situation like this with hands or wrists, it just depends on the individual.”

Buxton scheduled to undergo MRI exam on left wrist

DETROIT — Top prospect Byron Buxton is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his left wrist in the next few days after reinjuring it on a slide on Thursday, according to Twins director of Minor League operations Brad Steil.

Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, originally injured his wrist while diving for a fly ball in center field during a Minor League Spring Training game on March 16. He was diagnosed with a sprained pisotriquetral joint as a result and was shut down for several weeks.

He returned to action in extended Spring Training on April 26 before being activated from the Minor League disabled list at Class A Advanced Fort Myers on May 4. He hit .150 (3-for-20) with a double, a homer and two RBIs in five games before suffering the injury on Thursday. He was held out of the lineup on Friday and Saturday as a result, and the Miracle are off on Sunday.

The Twins remain hopeful the injury is just minor, as the MRI exam will be compared with the one he had in Spring Training after he initially injured his wrist.

Buxton was scheduled to play at Class A Advanced Fort Myers until he was deemed ready to move up to Double-A New Britain where he was expected to start the season before the injury.

Buxton, 20, hit a combined .334/.424/.520 with 12 homers, 18 triples, 19 doubles, 55 stolen bases, 77 RBIs and 109 runs in 125 games with Class A Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers last season.

Mauer returns to the lineup for first time since Sunday

DETROIT — After missing five games with lower back spasms, Joe Mauer returned to the lineup on Saturday against the Tigers, starting at designated hitter and batting third.

Mauer was able to hit in the cages without any issues before the game, and told Twins manager Ron Gardenhire he was also able to run the bases. So Gardenhire called it an easy decision to put Mauer in the lineup for the first time since Sunday.

“He came in and got to the park early and did some stuff and said he wanted to play,” Gardenhire said. “The trainers said the same thing. He feels good and can run all the bases and all those things.”

Gardenhire added he was relieved Mauer was able to avoid the 15-day disabled list, as it would’ve kept him out of action until May 20 against the Padres.

“With backs, it’s something you don’t want to deal with too much,” Gardenhire said. “When you start feeling better you always want to give it a few extra days. I’ve had it and we’ve all had it, and it’s just not very fun. So I’m just happy to see him in here wanting to play.”

Twins reinstate Hicks, select contract of Parmelee

DETROIT — The Twins reinstated outfielder Aaron Hicks from the seven-day concussion disabled list and promoted first baseman/outfielder Chris Parmelee from Triple-A Rochester, the club announced before Friday’s game against the Tigers.

The moves came after the Twins optioned catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann and shortstop Pedro Florimon to Rochester on Wednesday. Both made their return to the lineup, as Hicks started in center field and batted eighth, while Parmelee started in right field and hit seventh. Eduardo Nunez, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Thursday with outfielder Sam Fuld being placed on the seven-day concussion DL, started at designated hitter.

First baseman Joe Mauer, however, was held out of the lineup for a fifth straight day with lower back spasms. He took soft toss before the game, and could potentially be available to pinch-hit on Friday. The Twins remain hopeful he’ll return on Saturday or Sunday as designated hitter.

“We were getting pretty thin,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We also have Nunez now for a full day. We actually have a bench and three outfielders in the outfield, which is a good thing.”

Hicks suffered a concussion May 1 against the Dodgers in the second game of a split doubleheader, when he crashed into the center-field wall in the sixth inning. Friday was the first day he was eligible to return. He said he was able to start taking batting practice on Wednesday after the concussion symptoms began to subside.

“I had it for about for about three days but by the fourth day I was feeling better,” said Hicks, who said he suffered from fogginess. “From then on it was all about getting better and getting ready to play in games.”

The contract of Parmelee was selected from Triple-A, as he was outrighted off the 40-man roster by the Twins in late March and had to be added back on the roster. In 32 games with the Red Wings, Parmelee hit .305/.378/.542 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 23 RBIs.

“I was staying aggressive at the plate,” Parmelee said. “Sometimes I thought I would get too passive on a pitch that was good enough to hit. Sometimes I’d wait for a pitch I wanted in an exact spot instead of trying to hit a pitch I could I still drive. So I just tried to keep the aggressiveness up at the plate and my confidence up.”

In order to clear a spot for Parmelee on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated Double-A outfielder Kenny Wilson for assignment. Minnesota claimed Wilson off waivers from Toronto on April 24. Wilson played in 11 games at New Britain, hitting .195/.327/.268 with three doubles and three stolen bases.

Buxton activated from 7-day DL, will join Fort Myers

MINNEAPOLIS — Top prospect Byron Buxton, who sprained his left wrist in a Minor League Spring Training game on March 16, was officially activated from the 7-day disabled list at Class A Advanced Fort Myers on Sunday.

Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, had been playing in extended Spring Training games since April 26. He’s expected to play at Fort Myers until he’s deemed ready to move up to Double-A New Britain.

“He joined the Miracle today because he passed everything he needed to do in extended,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “Now we’ll get him in over there with the Miracle and get him going. If he gets rolling and it looks like he’s in mid-season form and ready to go, we’ll move him up to New Britain where we planed to have him be. He played his way out of this league last year but we’ll give him enough time here to get going.”

Buxton, 20, dominated the Florida State League last year, hitting .326/.415/.472 with four homers, four doubles, eight triples and 23 stolen bases in 57 games with Fort Myers.

Buxton originally injured his wrist while trying to make a diving catch in center field during a Minor League Spring Training game in Fort Myers.

Twins officially place Pelfrey on DL, recall Santana

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins made it official on Saturday, as they placed right-hander Mike Pelfrey on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain and recalled shortstop Danny Santana from Triple-A Rochester.

Santana joined the Twins on Saturday but wasn’t in the starting lineup. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he plans to use Santana in a variety of roles, including the outfield with Santana getting work there during batting practice before Saturday’s game.

“We’ll use him in the infield/outfield, whatever,” Gardenhire said. “We just needed a body and he was on the roster. We liked him in Spring Training. He can run. He can play the outfield so he’s going to take some fly balls in the outfield. So we’ll find ways to get him in there.”

Santana, ranked as the club’s No. 10 prospect by MLB.com, was hitting .268/.311/.381 with seven doubles and four stolen bases in 24 games at Rochester. He said he found out the news he’d be called up from Rochester manager Gene Glynn while taking batting practice on Friday, and arrived in the Twin Cities at around 1 a.m.

“I was on the field taking batting practice and Geno told me, ‘You are going to the big leagues,’ and I was so happy,” Santana said. “It’s nice. I’m very excited to be here.”

Pelfrey, meanwhile, will be replaced in the rotation by right-hander Samuel Deduno, who will start Tuesday in Cleveland. Pelfrey said he injured his groin during the first inning of the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers. He said he’ll let his groin rest for a few days before going out on a rehab assignment, and maintained that his arm is healthy despite his 7.99 ERA in five starts.

“I wasn’t throwing the ball as well as I’d like so maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” Pelfrey said. “It’ll be a chance to decompress and get this thing right.”

Pelfrey headed to DL, Deduno to take place in rotation

UPDATE: Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony confirmed shortstop Danny Santana will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester.

MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin after Friday’s game against the Orioles, and will be replaced in the rotation by right-hander Samuel Deduno. The Twins will announce a corresponding roster move after the game.

Pelfrey has struggled so far this season with a 7.99 ERA in five starts, including another subpar outing in Game 1 of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers, giving up five runs over four innings.

Pelfrey maintained after his start that he was healthy but told Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Friday that he was dealing with a groin injury. The Twins are hopeful it’ll help Pelfrey regain his velocity, as his fastball is averaging 91 mph this year after averaging 92.4 mph last year, according to Fangraphs.com. Pelfrey has also struggled with his control with 18 walks in 23 2/3 innings.

“He came in today saying his groin was bothering him,” Gardenhire said. “He tweaked it yesterday and didn’t want to make any excuses. He came in today sore. We told him this might give him an opportunity to get his leg well. And then he can go on a rehab assignment and try to get it straightened out. So it’s two-fold, get healthy and also figure out why his velocity has dropped down.”

Deduno will move from long relief into the rotation to take Pelfrey’s place. Deduno has a 2.89 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks in 18 1/2 innings this season. He also threw 64 pitches in relief on Pelfrey on Friday. Deduno made 18 starts last year, posting a 3.83 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 41 walks over 108 innings.

“We like what he did last year at times so we’ll see what happens and go from there,” Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire added that outfielder Oswaldo Arcia will not be recalled from Triple-A Rochester, as he’s still on his rehab assignment. Arcia has been on the DL with a right wrist strain since April 5. Infielder Eduardo Nunez is also still out with an oblique strain at Rochester.

Shortstop Danny Santana is considered the most likely player to be recalled, as he’s on the 40-man roster and is ranked as the club’s No. 10 overall prospect, according to MLB.com. He’s hitting .268/.311/.381 with seven doubles and four stolen bases in 24 games at Rochester

Twins to explore their options with Pelfrey

MINNEAPOLIS — It was more of the same on Thursday from Mike Pelfrey, and now the Twins will explore their options with the right-hander moving forward.

Pelfrey continued his early-season struggles to hand the Twins a 9-4 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of a split doubleheader at Target Field.

Pelfrey, who entered with a 7.32 ERA in four starts, turned in another poor outing, as he lasted a season-low four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and three walks. He’s yet to go more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his outings this year, and is 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA.

“It’s frustrating,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He reverted back to the pace thing and didn’t throw it over enough. We were on the field a lot and he threw 85 pitches in four innings. So we just have to figure out what we need to do next and where we need to go next. We’ll sit down and talk with the pitching coach, the pitcher and everybody involved to see where we go with this.”

Gardenhire added that the Twins haven’t ruled out moving Pelfrey to the bullpen but will meet with Pelfrey and pitching coach Rick Anderson before making a decision.

Pelfrey was frustrated with himself after the game, and said he can’t put a finger on why his velocity is down this year and why he’s had so much trouble with his control. He’s walked 18 batters in 23 2/3 innings this season.

“It was the same thing that had been going for the last month — I was terrible,” Pelfrey said. “It was the same stuff of not locating your fastball, leaving pitches over the middle and walking guys. It’s been the same for five starts. It’s terrible. I’m sure the coaching staff and Gardy are frustrated but I’m more frustrated than anybody.”

He said he’d be OK with a move to the bullpen to try to straighten himself out but wasn’t sure of his status until meeting with Gardenhire and Anderson.

“I probably wouldn’t be happy but obviously I’m not helping the team every five days,” Pelfrey said. “So I’d accept it and do the best I can.”

Right-hander Samuel Deduno went four innings in relief, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He threw 62 pitches, and is a candidate to join the rotation.

“Sammy is fine,” Gardenhire said. “He just has to get into a routine, too. We stretched him out pretty good today and we’ll make a decision here.”

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