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Updated: September 1st, 2010 12:01am
Mackey: Twins being pushed to limit in battle of attrition

Mackey: Twins being pushed to limit in battle of attrition

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- You'll have to excuse Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if he eschewed a modest celebration following his club's come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over the Tigers on Tuesday night.

The skipper's mind was preoccupied with a growing list of casualties.

"(Brian Fuentes') back locked up, so he's going to be out a few days here. He said normally about two or three days, that's why you didn't see him in the ballgame.

"Kubel's going to be day-to-day. We'll see how that goes. What else? We're going to get O-Dog's foot checked out again. I think we all saw that he wasn't moving very well tonight. He says he's fine, but that's not fine. That's not good enough for me. I think he's hurt, so we'll get that checked out.

"But we won," Gardenhire said, cracking a half-smile. "We did win."

The victory moves the Twins 20 games over .500 once again, and it preserves a four-game lead in the American League Central over the Chicago White Sox, who just acquired Manny Ramirez from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sure, the Twins are in a favorable position for a playoff spot, but it's a huge concern when the most popular hangout joint in the clubhouse resides in the trainer's room.

On Tuesday alone, as Gardenhire pointed out, Fuentes' back locked up in the bullpen, Orlando Hudson's foot still seems to be bothering him, and Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel were both plunked by pitches -- Mauer in the back and Kubel in the wrist.

Mauer is fine, but Kubel came out of the ballgame shortly after getting drilled. X-rays showed no break, just a significant amount of swelling.

Fuentes, who said this specific lower-back stiffness has happened approximately three times previously, most recently in April, said he originally felt it tighten up on the way back from Seattle this past weekend. He said he underwent treatment on Monday and again before the game Tuesday before testing it out in a pre-game bullpen session.

"I was ready to go and then game comes," Fuentes said. "I get up (before the eighth inning) and I think I cranked up the effort level a little bit. Five pitches in it locks up on me, and I mean there was just no way I was going to be able to go out there and throw.

"I probably couldn't throw right now... and (Wednesday) probably not, but the next day I'll probably pick up a ball and start throwing once again, hopefully. You don't know. I don't want to say something and then it doesn't happen."

The problem with missing Fuentes for three days is that he's only with the team for 30 more games. That's 10% for a team trying to get its money's worth.

Regarding Hudson, who tweaked his right foot on Saturday in Seattle but has played in both games since, Gardenhire said, "I like guys who want to play through things, but that's not getting it done right there. He can't move enough. He just can't move enough. We've got to get his foot checked out, and we'll get it straightened out."

Gardenhire said Alexi Casilla or the newly-recalled Trevor Plouffe will likely start in place of Hudson on Wednesday.

Fuentes is expected to miss two or three days, possibly more.

And Kubel said his swollen wrist will keep him out, "hopefully just a couple days. We'll see how it goes."

What about Jim Thome? He left Saturday's game early with a stiff back and was unavailable Tuesday night.

"(He) felt better today," Gardenhire said. "It's another situation I cannot push. I can't run him out there and let him take a bunch of swings and then actually end up taking a lot longer. My goal here is to try to let him have as many days as we possibly need for him to be healthy and tell me he's fine, he doesn't feel anything. And right now we're not there."

Then there's Justin Morneau -- out since July 7 with lingering effects from a concussion -- who has been told by team doctors to stay at home until Friday.

Oh, and don't forget Kevin Slowey (triceps) and Nick Punto (hamstring), who aren't eligible to come off the disabled list until the weekend, if they are ready, and Jose Mijares (torn meniscus), who is still 10-14 days from a possible return. And J.J. Hardy's sporadic wrist troubles.

Of course, the Twins are already without Ron Mahay (torn right rotator cuff) and Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery) for the rest of the season.

Is there anybody left?

"We'll have to ad lib (Wednesday) and see what kind of lineup we can come up with," Gardenhire said.

Good thing September has arrived.

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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