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Updated: April 8th, 2011 10:38am
Gardenhire plans to play Hughes daily; Mauer moving up to No. 2 spot

Gardenhire plans to play Hughes daily; Mauer moving up to No. 2 spot

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- As has been the case for much of the last 10 years, the Minnesota Twins have been forced to shuffle the middle infield in the wake of Tsuyoshi Nishioka's broken fibula.

That means finding a new every-day second baseman and also a new lineup structure.

"We've got Luke Hughes coming up, and it's going to definitely be an interesting lineup here -- trying to figure out who's going to fit in the two hole," manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN on Friday.

"I'm not real sure (Alexi Casilla) is ready for the two hole. So we're going to kind of battle through it. I might just move everybody up, put (Joe) Mauer up there, and just move everybody up in the middle of the order and go from there."

Shortly after Gardenhire spoke, Mauer was listed in the No. 2 spot in the lineup for Friday's home opener against the Oakland Athletics, between Denard Span and Justin Morneau.

"I'm in the lineup -- I don't really care where I hit," Mauer said. "As long as we can score runs and be productive on the offensive side, yeah. Two, three -- I'll lead off, I don't care."

Mauer has collected 284 career plate appearances in the No. 2 slot, posting a .320/.384/.532 batting line with 10 home runs and 17 doubles.

As for an every-day second baseman, Gardenhire said his preference is to use Hughes over Matt Tolbert. However, Michael Cuddyer also is taking ground balls there and could see time, particularly if Gardenhire wants him in the lineup with Jim Thome and Jason Kubel.

"My preference is if Luke is going to be up here, I'm going to play him. I think Matty Tolbert, we kept him for a reason, and that's to come off the bench and do all those little things, go all over the field. Luke is more of a starter, so we're going to run him out there."

Gardenhire added that Hughes has had "a little bit of trouble with a few breaking balls, which most hitters do have.

"He can hit a fastball, we know that. He's going to have to hit some breaking balls. The scouts in the stands are going to be watching him. They're going to be spinning it. He's going to have to hit some breaking balls. And defensively, just pay attention. We don't expect him to be Super Man. Just catch the balls you're supposed to, and turn the double plays you're supposed to. But I think he'll be fine."

The Twins will open their home schedule at Target Field against the Oakland Athletics at 3:10 p.m. Friday.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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