Updated: July 3rd, 2010 2:39pm
Notebook: Hardy's back, but Gardenhire hopes to keep Valencia in mix

Notebook: Hardy's back, but Gardenhire hopes to keep Valencia in mix

by Tom Pelissero
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MINNEAPOLIS -- J.J. Hardy is off the disabled list, and that means decisions for Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

Hardy was in Saturday's lineup at shortstop, with Michael Cuddyer at third base, Jason Kubel in right field and Jim Thome as the designated hitter against Tampa Bay right-hander Wade Davis.

But Gardenhire also plans to keep playing Nick Punto regularly and hopes to find some at-bats for Danny Valencia, who quietly is hitting .333 and had the winning RBI in Friday's 2-1 victory over the Rays.

"We're going to go day-to-day with the lineup and mix it up," Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire said he's already talked with general manager Bill Smith about giving Valencia at-bats against left-handers, against whom the rookie third baseman has a .350 batting average and .435 on-base percentage.

"I don't want him sitting up here for five or six days a week when he could be swinging, that's for sure," Gardenhire said.

Cuddyer would play right field in that scenario and Kubel would DH.

The lineup against righties likely would mirror Saturday's lineup, with Punto perhaps splitting time at third base, shortstop and even second base depending on who needs a rest.

"Nicky's been playing great baseball," Gardenhire said. "We'll put him out there as much as we possibly can along with the rest of them. It's never a problem to have too many. We have a pretty good bunch of guys."

Activated on Saturday afternoon, Hardy said he's spending about 20 minutes a day on exercises to strengthen the left wrist that's put him on the DL twice in the past two months.

The wrist didn't give Hardy in three games with the Class-A Beloit Snappers, for whom he went 2-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts.

Hardy also survived a scare in his second at-bat when 18-year-old Cedar Rapids Kernels left-hander Tyler Skaggs plunked him.

"It was an 0-2 fastball at my face," said Hardy, who blocked the pitch with his shoulder.

Hardy also joked about the conditions of the Beloit's infield, which he said made him "honestly a little bit nervous for ground balls there," especially after dark.

"He made it out alive," Gardenhire said. "Low-A ball -- it's that kind of baseball. Lot of fun. But he's healthy, and that's the important thing here."

Reliever Clay Condrey will continue his rehab assignment at Class-AAA Rochester after throwing three scoreless innings Friday for Class-A Fort Myers.

"He threw the ball great," Gardenhire said of Condrey, who has yet to throw a big-league inning this season because of an elbow injury. "Everything's coming out of his hand really good."

Gardenhire also reiterated his interest in giving a look to bullpen prospects Anthony Slama and Kyle Waldrop, who have been dominating at Rochester, but acknowledged Condrey may get the first shot.

"We signed him for a reason," Gardenhire said. We'll have to see."

* To make room for Hardy on the 25-man roster, the Twins placed IF Matt Tolbert on the 15-day disabled list with what Tolbert described as a bone bruise on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Asked if it was a tough decision, Gardenhire said, "No, he can't throw and he can't hit. If you can't throw and you can't hit, it's tough to play, and I'm not going to send a guy down hurt."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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