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.”

Willingham to 15-day DL, Hicks activated from DL

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins placed Josh Willingham on the 15-day day disabled list with a medial meniscus tear and bone bruise in his left knee on Tuesday. Center fielder Aaron Hicks was activated from the 15-day DL to take Willingham’s place on the roster.

Willingham has been dealing with soreness in his left knee all season and tweaked his knee on Friday. He was held out of the lineup on Saturday and Sunday but did deliver an RBI ground-rule double as a pinch-hitter on Sunday.

He was in the starting lineup for Monday’s game against the Yankees but was a late scratch after feeling discomfort in his knee while trying to run before the game. The DL move is retroactive to Monday.

Willingham, 34, is hitting .224/.356/.398 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 70 games. He had an MRI exam on Tuesday morning that showed the meniscus tear and bone bruise.

Hicks, meanwhile, was originally placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring on June 10. He hit .190 with a double and two RBIs in six games as part of his rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester.

Twins select Kohl Stewart as No. 4 overall selection

MINNEAPOLIS — For the second straight year, the Twins went with a high school player with their first pick in the First-Year Player Draft.

After taking outfielder Byron Buxton as the No. 2 pick in last year’s Draft, the Twins selected right-hander pitcher Kohl Stewart from St. Pius X High School in Houston as the No. 4 overall pick on Thursday night.

Stewart, who turns 19 on Oct. 7, was regarded as the best prep pitcher in the Draft and is a two-sport athlete, as he is currently committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback and play baseball. He was selected after the Astros picked Stanford right-hander Mark Appel at No. 1, the Cubs took University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant at No. 2 and the Rockies drafted Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray at No. 3.

“I think the ceiling is unlimited,” Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. “I think he’s got the makeup and the physical attributes to be a frontline starter. I’m not going to sit here and say the guy is going to be a No. 1 starter — I don’t think anyone can predict that — but I do think that, not to put any undue pressure on the kid, but he has the ability, the athleticism to be just as good as the guys up ahead of him.”

Johnson also added that the Twins aren’t worried about signing him even though the Tomball, Texas, native is committed to Texas A&M. The No. 4 overall pick has a slot value of $4.544 million.

“He’s signing,” Johnson said. “He wants to be a Major League Baseball player.”

Stewart was surrounded by family members when he found out he was being picked by the Twins but said some weather issues kept him from watching it live on MLB Network.

“It was unbelievable,” Stewart said. “One of the craziest feelings I’ve ever felt. It’s a really exciting time for my family. I had a bunch of people in my house watching it. It was funny because the weather got pretty bad here in Houston so all of our satellite dishes went out, so we couldn’t even watch it on our tvs. We all had to put it up on our phones. So a few people had it on their phones and whenever my name was called the house kinda went crazy.”

On the diamond, the 6-foot-3 right-hander has a 95-mph fastball with a plus-slider and a changeup and curveball to go with it.

As a junior in 2012, Kohl went 8-0 and recorded 72 strikeouts over 54 innings pitched as he helped lead St. Pius to the TAPPS 5A Title. And as a senior, he went 5-1 with a 0.18 ERA in 40 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts and 16 walks to be named to the Texas All-Region First-Team in 2013.

He also played in both the Area Code Games and the Perfect Game All-American Classic over the summer, serving as the starting pitcher for the West in the Perfect Game. He was also named a First-Team Rawlings All-American.

“When we scouted him last summer he was probably 185 pounds, he put on about 20 pounds of muscle,” Johnson said. “He has arm strength. He has four distinct pitches: a fastball, slider, curve and change. And for a guy that is a dual sport athlete, he didn’t spend a ton of time on the mound last summer, but he has a very good working arm. His delivery is pretty good as well.”

Stewart sounded optimistic about signing with the Twins but wanted to talk with Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin first before making his decision final. The Aggies already have a big-time quarterback in Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman last year.

“Obviously the Twins, they pick me, they expect me to sign,” Stewart said. “I’m not going to say 100 percent for sure, but I’m looking forward to joining the Twins organization, but I’m definitely going to be in contact with Coach Sumlin here in the next couple hours or days or whatever it ends up being.”

Stewart is a Type 1 diabetic but Twins officials said leading up to the Draft that they weren’t worried about his medical condition, which is considered under control.

Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. ET

MLB.com’s coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

The Twins have one more pick on the first night of the Draft with the No. 43 overall pick in the second round.


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