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Updated: August 19th, 2011 12:06am
Mackey: Innocent mishap fits right in with this bizarre season

Mackey: Innocent mishap fits right in with this bizarre season

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- In some ways, the Minnesota Twins were no different than any number of weekly-league softball teams around the metro on Thursday night -- just hoping enough players would show up at the ballpark to avoid a forfeit.

The only difference might have been the lack of a keg in the dugout, which some Twins players and coaches might have lobbied for while enduring their 20th loss in the last 23 games against the New York Yankees.

As it turned out, nine healthy position players turned up -- not counting Matt Tolbert, whose sprained wrist was considered "bearable," but probably not good enough for multiple at-bats.

A family issue kept Jason Kubel away from the ballpark, lingering dizziness shelved Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer's herniated neck required an epidural shot, knocking him out for at least a couple more days.

By the way, if you're scoring at home, here's where the Twins' injury tally stands heading into Friday:

Games missed by every-day position players due to injury or illness *

Justin Morneau - 62 (50% of team's 123 games)
Tsuyoshi Nishioka - 60 (49%)
Joe Mauer - 58 (47%)
Denard Span - 55 (45%)
Jason Kubel - 46 (37%)
Jim Thome - 43 (35%)
Delmon Young - 33 (28%)
Alexi Casilla - 17 (14%)
Michael Cuddyer - 8 (7%)

That doesn't include several missed days by injured pitchers -- Kevin Slowey (94 days), Joe Nathan (31), Glen Perkins (25), Scott Baker (25), Francisco Liriano (18), Jose Mijares (18) and Matt Capps (4).

In fairness to Thome, he wouldn't have played in each of those 43 team games even if he was healthy.

* Thanks to the Baseball Prospectus injury history tracker for assisting with this data collection

If the Twins organization continues for another 200 years, it likely won't ever endure a season with this many casualties again.

The injury rash is one thing, but an already-bizarre season didn't take a turn down whatever road the 2010 Vikings traveled down until the lone reinforcement, infielder Luke Hughes, missed his flight Thursday afternoon because he wound up waiting at the wrong gate.

This mishap resulted in Mauer being asked to play his first game in right field since high school.

"I obviously messed up there," said Hughes, who finally completed his journey from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Target Field shortly before manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the bottom of the first inning.

"I went to the airport and was sitting there waiting for my flight at (Gate) 9B, and the flight went out of 9A. I was sitting there with everybody else ... I thought our flight was delayed. Sure enough, I got up and looked around and went and saw the plane backing out of the gate and kind of realized that I was in the wrong area."

The Twins booked another flight for Hughes, hoping to still get him back to Minneapolis before game time, "but (the airport) wouldn't put me on it. They needed to see a credit card. They wouldn't actually put me on that flight, so then I had to wait for the next available one."

When he finally landed in Minneapolis and found a taxi cab, "I got every red light as soon as I got into the city, which was great."

Hughes wound up pinch-hitting for Drew Butera in the bottom of the ninth inning against Yankees right-hander Cory Wade, who struck the Aussie out on three pitches -- a fitting end to one of the more forgettable days in a season full of forgettable days.

But hey, with the lone injury-replacement missing a flight, the catcher playing right field, and another key player landing on the disabled list -- again -- Thursday night pretty much sums up the Twins' season so far.

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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