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Updated: May 29th, 2011 1:14pm
Notebook: Liriano could land on DL; Mijares returning Monday

Notebook: Liriano could land on DL; Mijares returning Monday

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Sidelined due to shoulder soreness, Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano wasn't exactly missed on Saturday, considering emergency starter Anthony Swarzak nearly threw the team's second no-hitter of the season.

An MRI showed some inflammation and possible tendinitis, but nothing serious. That said, if Liriano is unable to throw his scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday, the team will likely have to place him on the 15-day disabled list.

"Well, that's up in the air too," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

"He feels a lot better, and that's a good thing. It sounds like he'll probably be able to go out there and throw, but if it comes up that he's having issues out there, that would be something we would definitely think about. Back him off and just give him a couple weeks here to regroup. ...

"He thinks he's going to be OK. I think getting the MRI, that kind of mentally told him he's OK. He didn't see anything bad in there. I think that kind of frees him up a little too."

Liriano owns a 5.73 ERA for the season, but he has allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of his last four starts.

Mijares to be activated from DL

After throwing two innings in an extended spring training game Saturday, left-hander Jose Mijares -- hampered with elbow tenderness -- is set to come off the disabled list prior to Monday's game in Detroit.

Gardenhire said the team has not yet decided who Mijares will replace on the roster, but it's likely that one of the left-handers will be sent packing. Perhaps Dusty Hughes or Phil Dumatrait.

Doctor says Nathan's setback is 'very common'

Right-hander Joe Nathan was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with tenderness in his surgically-repaired elbow, and it remains uncertain when he will be able to return.

An MRI showed inflammation in Nathan's forearm area, which isn't necessarily uncommon following Tommy John surgery.

"We talked to the doctor, (David) Altcheck, who performed the surgery, and he said that's a very common area for guys who have problems to get some inflammation and some soreness in that area," said head athletic trainer Rick McWane.

"That's where they split the muscle to go in and perform the surgery, so he's got some scar tissue in there. He said particularly that guys who really work hard in their rehab -- the guys who really get after it, which Joe did -- are more susceptible to having this problem for some reason or another, than guys that don't."

McWane added that Altcheck "wasn't overly concerned about it."

"We'll just have to take a few steps back and let it calm down. and hopefully once he comes back it'll be a little bit better and a little bit stronger."

Nathan has allowed 13 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings (7.63 ERA), striking out 15 and walking nine.

Gardenhire very impressed with Swarzak

With the bullpen in a constant state of flux, and with more roster moves on the horizon, Swarzak can seemingly rest easy. At least for now.

"Well he's been able to handle it," Gardenhire said. "He goes out there the one game, I think he went in and got himself in trouble right away, but what we liked about it was after we took him out, right away he said, 'I'm ready for tomorrow. If you need me tomorrow, I'm ready. I want to get back out there.' I kind of like that attitude.

"I don't want people backing away, and that's what we like about him. He told me out there this morning, 'If you need me, I'm good.' I don't know about that, but ... But I like that. And he's sincere about it. So I think he likes the idea of staying in the big leagues, and has a good sense of where we've been scuffling, and he knows that if he takes the ball and pitches he'll get his chance."

The question for Swarzak is whether he'd be able to transition to a late-inning bullpen role, assuming Liriano jumps back into the rotation at some point.

Only three of Swarzak's 152 minor league appearances have come out of the 'pen, but Gardenhire said the right-hander "could figure into that, too.

"If he could come out in those situations and get some people out that's something we might end up finding out. Then we could definitely mix him into that and get somebody else as a long guy. If he can come in and do what he did (Saturday) in the late part of a ballgame that'd be wonderful. I'm not for sure. I haven't seen that, we haven't seen him do that. If you looked at his stuff yesterday, it looked like he had pretty good stuff."

Plouffe 'fired up'

Since making two key defensive gaffes in last Monday's 8-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners, shortstop Trevor Plouffe has spent the majority of his time sitting on the bench this week.

With Tsuyoshi Nishioka out since early April with a broken leg, and with no other middle infielders stepping up to claim every-day playing time, Plouffe, 24, has a golden opportunity to solidify himself as the starting shortstop.

But he hasn't risen to the occasion yet, and he's fully aware of the criticism being thrown at him from the media and from his own manager.

"We've had two or three conversations," Gardenhire said. "He's kind of a laidback kid, but he showed me a little something because he kept saying you guys (the media) kept coming up to him asking him questions and it kind of got him mad about why is he having to answer (those questions). ...

"I just told him, there's always going to be questions and you have to go get the ball and be aggressive. So, he was a little fired up, and I like that. You guys have irritated him enough that he wants to come talk to me about his play, which starts with me, goes through you guys and you take it to him. So then he came and talked to me, and I enjoyed that. That's how it works around here. I talk face-to-face with them all the time, but when you guys bring it up to him it irritates him and he comes back to me. So it's good, the process, it works sometimes."

Of course, if Plouffe starts to make the proper adjustments -- charging balls aggressively, taking good at-bats on a regular basis, and being more assertive in general -- he won't have to deal with the negativity.

"That's exactly what I said," Gardenhire said. "Then it's on your shoulders to go back the damn plays and not let a guy beat a routine groundball to first base and be aggressive and show them that. Then they won't ask any questions. Then they won't ask me any questions."

More than anything, Gardenhire wasn't thrilled with how Plouffe -- who was hitting .218/.323/.418 heading into Sunday -- handled being benched earlier in the week.

"If you're not in the lineup I don't want to see anybody kind of sulking," Gardenhire said. "I don't want to see a guy go stand out in the left field corner shagging during BP that's an infielder, and I watched him two games in a row standing out in left field all by himself, and I'm not into that. You've got to prepare.

"You might get a game winning hit, you may go in in the third inning if someone gets hurt. I'm tired of people worrying about whether they're in the starting lineup or not. Everybody has a job when they come to the field, and I just wanted to make that point to him and that's what I did yesterday. When you're called upon be ready to play, and he assured me that he is."

Plouffe was back in in the starting lineup for both Saturday and Sunday's games against the Angels.

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