Mauer sent home with concussion-like symptoms

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins catcher Joe Mauer had to shut down his workout early on Wednesday, as he felt concussion-like symptoms and was sent home from Target Field.

It was the first setback for Mauer since suffering a concussion on Aug. 19, when he was hit by a foul tip while catching against the Mets.

Mauer took batting practice on the field over the weekend but worked out inside on Tuesday and Wednesday. But Wednesday was the first time that Mauer had to shut it down early, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

“He didn’t have a good day,” Ryan said. “It’s a concern more than frustration. You gotta feel for the guy. He just didn’t feel good today so we went him home. This wasn’t a good day and I don’t want to hide that at all. So he’s home and hopefully he comes back tomorrow feeling better and he’ll get back on track here.”

A few thoughts on the Justin Morneau trade

ARLINGTON — Judging by the reactions on Twitter, it appears most Twins fans aren’t happy with the decision to trade first baseman Justin Morneau to the Pirates for Alex Presley and a player to be named or cash.

And given what Morneau meant to the franchise in his 11 years with the Twins, and the fact that Presley is already 28 and profiles as a fourth outfielder, it’s certainly understandable.

Morneau was undoubtedly a face of the franchise along with Joe Mauer, and rightfully so, given his four All-Star Game appearances and his 2006 AL MVP Award. He deserved a better exit than this but at least he now has a chance to play in the postseason for the first time since ’06.

But the truth is his production dropped after sustaining his fateful concussion in Toronto on July 7, 2010, and he hasn’t been the same since.

He was an elite first baseman at that point with a career .286/.358/.511 line in 948 games, but since then he’s hit just .256/.316/.412 in 330 games while battling through wrist, knee and neck injuries.

And this year, even after an impressive August that saw him hit nine homers, Morneau hit .259/.315/.426 in 127 games. It’s not a bad mark given his OPS+ of 102 but not great when compared to other first basemen across the Majors, as the average first baseman has hit .260/.336/.436 with a 115 OPS+ this year.

Truthfully, Morneau didn’t have much value on the trade market, especially considering he’s making $14 million this season in the last year of his contract. The Twins shopped him since July, and decided to finally cash in on the final day he could be traded and be eligible for the postseason.

So while the return may look underwhelming, the Twins didn’t want to get left with nothing in case Morneau signs with another club this offseason. They were never going to offer him the qualifying offer this off-season to get draft-pick compensation, as Morneau would’ve took the one-year offer, which figures to be worth roughly $13-14 million.

Presley, at 28 years old, is no longer a prospect but has value because of his ability to play all three outfield spots and does have a career .377 on-base percentage in 285 games at Triple-A. The Twins simply aren’t long on leadoff-type hitters — outside of Aaron Hicks, who has struggled this year — so they’ll give Presley a chance to prove himself this September. He’s also under team control until 2018 and isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2015.

The Twins save money this year with the deal and will also receive another player, although he’s not expected to be a top prospect. But it’ll be worth monitoring to see what type of player they’ll get along with Presley, as Pirates general manager Neil Huntington. And it’ll also be worth seeing what Chris Colabello can do with regular at-bats at first base in September after dominating at Triple-A Rochester.

There’s also the chance that Morneau returns to Minnesota on a new contract this off-season, which is similar to what happened with former closer Rick Aguilera, who was traded to Boston in 1995 but still re-signed with the Twins. If he does return, then the trade is a win for the Twins, as they picked up two bonus players in addition to Morneau.

So while I was surprised the Twins decided to move Morneau at the last minute and believe it’s a modest return, it simply shows that Morneau just wasn’t worth all that much on the trade market.

In the end, they get a fourth outfielder and another potentially useful player for a one-month rental of a player expected to be used in a platoon at first base. So while it’s tough to see one of the best players in franchise history be traded, it does make some sense for baseball reasons even though it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Update: The player to be named is expected to be right-hander Duke Welker, according to MLB.com sources.

Welker, 27, is a hard-throwing reliever, as the 6-foot-7 reliever’s fastball averages about 97 mph. He had a 3.25 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 61 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis, and also made two scoreless appearances with the Pirates in late June.

Welker, who is under team control until 2019, has the potential to develop into a decent set-up reliever at the Major League level.

Willingham stays put, not traded by the Twins

ARLINGTON — Josh Willingham is still a member of the Twins.

The left fielder was pulled back off waivers by the Twins, as the club was unable to work out a deal with the Orioles before Friday’s deadline. The Orioles claimed Willingham off waivers on Wednesday but ended up working out a deal with the Mariners for first baseman/outfielder Mike Morse instead.

Willingham, who is also under contract for $7 million next year, now can’t be traded to any club this season.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Willingham said. “Now I know where I’m going to be.”

Willingham said he knew a trade wasn’t completed when he didn’t hear anything from the Twins or his agent on Friday, but was never officially notified by anyone he wasn’t traded.

But he was happy to be in the lineup on Friday against the Rangers, and said he prefers staying in Minnesota.

“I’m comfortable here so I’d like to stay here,” Willingham said. “The bottom line is I didn’t have any control so I didn’t worry myself with it.”

Mauer feeling better but no timetable for his return

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins catcher Joe Mauer met with the media on Thursday for the first time since sustaining a concussion on Aug. 19, and said he’s feeling better but that there’s no timetable for his return.

Mauer suffered the concussion after being hit by a foul tip while catching on Aug. 19 and was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list the next day after feeling dizzy during batting practice in Detroit.

He was able to do light exercises for the first time on Wednesday at Target Field, and said he’s doing better after spending the last week resting at home. But he said he’s still feeling some symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound.

“My symptoms have been getting better, which is good,” Mauer said. “Even the things yesterday, I’m definitely conscious of the way I’m feeling and exercising and taking a break for a little while to see where I’m at. But it’s been going good so hopefully it’ll be another good day today.”

Mauer, though, said it’s too early to tell when he’ll make his return. He’s not making the trip to Texas for the Rangers series but will ramp up his activities while the Twins are away. He added that he plans on playing again this season.

“Shutting it down never entered my mind,” Mauer said. “I want to be out there. Obviously I want to be smart about it, but I want to get out there and play.”

But Mauer said he hasn’t talked to the Twins about how much he’ll catch this season when he makes his return. But general manager Terry Ryan said he’s hopeful Mauer will be back behind the plate this year.

“I hope so,” Ryan said. “That’s his position. You can get hurt on a baseball field wherever you go. Even at DH.”

Twins recall Tonkin to take Gibson’s roster spot

DETROIT — The Twins recalled right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday to take the spot of right-hander Kyle Gibson, who was optioned to Rochester after his start on Monday.

Tonkin, 23, has a combined 2.39 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 13 walks in 52 2/3 innings between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester this year. He also made his lone Major League appearance with the Twins on July 11, throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rays, when left-hander Caleb Thielbar was on the bereavement list.

He’s regarded as one of the organization’s top relief prospects, as he possesses a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider he uses as his out pitch. He showed off his big arm when he struck out Rays star Evan Longoria with a 96 mph fastball in his debut with the Twins.

But his stint with the Twins could be a short one again, as the club is without a starter for Saturday’s game against the Indians with Gibson sent down to Rochester.

The Twins could opt to use long reliever Anthony Swarzak in a spot start or could call up a starter from Triple-A such as Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond or P.J. Walters.

Gardenhire offers opinion on expanded instant replay

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he’s in favor of Major League Baseball expanding instant replay in 2014 but questioned the new challenge system that would be in place.

Under the new guidelines presented by MLB vice president Joe Torre to all 30 clubs on the last day of the Owners Meetings on Thursday, managers will have a much more active role in instant replay next year. But those changes will still have to be voted on in the next Owners Meeting in December and will also need approval from the Players Union and umpires.

The proposed changes would allow managers to inform the umpire they want to challenge a call that doesn’t involve balls or strikes. Managers will be allowed one challenge in the first six innings and two more from the seventh through the end of the game. And if the manager wins the appeal, they get to keep the challenge but the challenge from the first six innings does not carry over. The current system of reviewing boundary calls for home runs will remain in place.

Gardenhire, however, said he’d prefer to see a system that has an extra umpire at the ballpark to review all calls because he believes it would help the pace of the game and allow all calls to be properly reviewed. Under the new system, all replays will be reviewed by umpires at MLB.com headquarters in New York.

“I’ve said all along they should have a guy in the booth with a replay set right in front of him and he signals yes or no,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve always thought that’s the quickest way to do it. I know they’ve talked about it being too expensive to have another person up there but they have people all around watching umpires anyway. So why not give them a monitor and make a decision quick instead of them having run off the field.”

Gardenhire pointed to the fact that if managers don’t have any challenges left, incorrect calls could be made at critical junctures late in games. He also said the new system does nothing to improve ball and strike calls.

“That gets more arguments than anything — balls and strikes,” Gardenhire said. “And that’s because umpires are given a zone where they have to call balls and strikes in. And that’s the toughest part of the game for them, too, because they have to call these strikes.”

Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who is a member of MLB’s Playing Rules Committee, said he understands Gardenhire’s concerns but said MLB is doing its best based on the opinions of many in baseball.

“I think the important thing is we’re going to try,” Ryan said. “We have the technology.”

Morneau addresses Trade Deadline rumors

MINNEAPOLIS — With the All-Star Game now in the rearview mirror, the July 31 Trade Deadline looms for the Twins, who are expected to be sellers after losing 12 of 15 entering the break.

First baseman Justin Morneau and closer Glen Perkins are the club’s two biggest trade chips but Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he’ll listen in on any potential offers for any of the club’s players. Others who could be available include veteran right-handers Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia and veteran utility infielder Jamey Carroll.

Morneau, who is making $14 million this season in the last year of a six-year deal signed in 2008, said he’s trying his best to ignore all the trade rumors surrounding him.

“It’s out of my control,” Morneau said. “I’m not too worried about it. If it happens, I’ll deal with it. If not, I’m happy to play here.”

Morneau added that his camp has not been contacted by the Twins about a possible extension and that he has six teams on a limited no-trade clause but none of the six teams are among those listed as potential suitors. Teams reportedly interested in Morneau are the Yankees, Rays, Pirates, Orioles and Red Sox.

Morneau also wouldn’t say if he’d re-sign with the Twins this off-season if he were dealt, as he didn’t want to deal with any hypothetical questions just yet. But he did say that if it were up to him, he’d stay with Minnesota.

“I think it’s more rewarding to win with the organization you’ve grown up with and the people that you almost become a family with,” said Morneau, who has played with the Twins since ‘03. “It’s a place where I’m happy and we’ve won here, which is always the goal. But it’s not up to me, so we’ll see what happens.”

Mauer, Perkins to represent Twins in All-Star Game

TORONTO — Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins have known each other since Little League, and now the two Minnesota natives will be heading to New York to represent the Twins in the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16.

Mauer was voted in by the fans as the starting catcher for the American League for the fourth time in his career while Perkins was chosen by Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, who will serve as manager for the AL squad.

It marks the sixth career All-Star Game selection for Mauer, who hails from St. Paul, and the first for Perkins, who grew up in nearby Stillwater, Minn.

“It’s an awesome deal,” Mauer said. “Obviously to bring a teammate like Glen — we go way back — is really special. So I’m very excited. I’m probably more excited for him but I’m just excited about everything.”

Mauer said he first met Perkins when they were about 12 years old and they really got to know each other when they were both selected to the Metro East Lions All-Star team as high school seniors in ’01.

Mauer was drafted by the Twins as the No. 1 overall pick that summer while Perkins went off to the University of Minnesota and became a first-round pick in ’04. They’ve been teammates on the Twins since ’06 and also played for Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

“I think it still hasn’t sunk in,” Perkins said. “It’s a goal that everyone has once they play in the Major Leagues. I think more than anything, I’m excited to go with Joe. We’ve known each other for a long time and it’s been pretty well-documented this year what we’ve been through. So this is another chapter for that. So it’s pretty neat.”

Gardenhire holds closed-door meeting after loss

TORONTO — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had seen enough.

He saw his players being too uptight during their recent skid and decided it was time to hold a team meeting after yet another defeat on Friday night.

The post-game speech came after Kevin Correia was tormented by Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, who provided two RBIs — one on a solo homer — to hand the Twins a 4-0 loss Rogers Centre. It extended the Twins’ losing streak to six games, as they’ve now lost 11 of their last 14.

“It seems like the air goes out of us too quick,” Gardenhire said. “We need to rebound better. I told the boys this is baseball and they’re making it like a job right now. That was the message for them tonight — it’s baseball and we’re going to have some fun. These guys are working their tails off. They got out there and do everything they can but the games aren’t clicking for us so we need to go back to relaxing and having fun.”

Correia, who gave up four runs on 10 hits and three walk over six innings to get pegged with the loss, said Gardenhire’s postgame message was well-received by his teammates.

“We’re just trying to stay loose,” Correia said. “I think your first instinct when things aren’t going good is to tense up and try to force something to happen. But that isn’t a good way to play baseball. We need be loose and have a good time. That’s how you usually play your best.”

Mastroianni heading for Fort Myers on Sunday

MINNEAPOLIS — Darin Mastroianni said Thursday his left ankle is continuing to improve and that he’s set to leave for the Twins’ Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. on Sunday.

Mastroianni, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a left ankle stress reaction, will continue to do his rehab work in Florida until he’s ready to start a rehab assignment. But Mastroianni said there’s still no official timetable for his return.

“I’ll be starting basically a mini-Spring Training,” Mastroianni said. “I’m not ready to play in games. So it’s going to take a little while to get my legs underneath me and get into playing shape. So hopefully it won’t take too long and I can get rocking and rolling. But we don’t know how the ankle is going to react. So it just depends on when I get in that first rehab game. We’ll play it by ear.”

Mastroianni has been taking batting practice at Target Field for the last week and said he’s continued to notice an improvement in his ankle.

“It’s not so much a concern about the swing right now it’s just more about how it feels and if there’s pain on the weight transfer,” Mastroianni said. “But it feels good right now. Each day has gotten a little bit better with that.”

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