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Updated: September 7th, 2011 6:36pm
Notebook: Six-man rotation possible; Joe Mauer is able to catch

Notebook: Six-man rotation possible; Joe Mauer is able to catch

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- As the season winds down, one of the main goals for the Minnesota Twins is simply getting some guys healthy enough to play -- in any number of games -- to better evaluate the roster heading into the offseason.

That process could take a step in the right direction on Thursday, as Scott Baker (elbow discomfort), Brian Duensing (strained oblique) and Francisco Liriano (shoulder discomfort) are all scheduled to throw off a mound. If all goes well, the Twins are hoping all three could pitch before the end of the season.

But because only three weeks remain in the season, there may not be enough time to stretch out Liriano and Baker to handle a starter's workload, meaning if they return before the end of September they'd likely pitch out of the bullpen.

Because Duensing last pitched on Saturday in Anaheim, he would likely slide back into the rotation -- perhaps as a sixth starter along with Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, Liam Hendriks and Scott Diamond.

"We'll just see," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If I have to go to six guys, I'd do that. I'd just put Duesning right in there and go six. I'm not afraid to do that."

Mauer is able to catch

Due to neck soreness followed by an upper respiratory infection, Joe Mauer has not caught since Aug. 20.

In the nine games Mauer has played since Aug. 20, he has started four times at first base and five times as the designated hitter. He was also penciled in as the DH for Wednesday night's game against Chicago.

But that could change this weekend.

"Mauer can catch right now," Gardenhire said. "He's already told me, 'Whatever you want me to do. Catch, DH, first base, whatever you need me to do.' Right now it's just a better fit. Right now, leave him over there. I've got two other catchers. ... There's a good possibility he'll catch in Detroit."

In 35 plate appearances since Aug. 20, Mauer is hitting .333/.371/.485 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs.

Morneau could travel to Detroit

Justin Morneau has not played since Aug. 28 due to experiencing mild concussion symptoms, but he took early batting practice on Wednesday and will travel with the team to Detroit this weekend if all goes well over the next two days.

"You're talking about a guy that wants to get out there and get some swings in before the season's over," Gardenhire said.

"It hasn't been a lot of fun for him, and I'm sure Justin would like to go into the winter at least having a few swings. ... Rather than just sitting there and not knowing what it's going to feel like when he comes back."

Quick hits

• OF Denard Span (migraine/concussion symptoms) took batting practice Wednesday as well, but it's unknown if he'll be able to return this season. "The big thing is, it's not so much about how much you play, it's that he gets back out there and does a little bit, gets in a ballgame or two if that's possible," Gardenhire said. "If it's not possible for either (Span or Morneau), it's not possible. ... If it's possible, that's what we're going to try to do, at least get him on the field."

• 2B Alexi Casilla (pulled hamstring) will fly back to Minnesota from Fort Myers on Thursday and will be re-evaluated on Friday. Casilla has been running on a treadmill due to bad weather in Florida, but the team hopes he'll be able to return before the end of September.

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka will likely battle some oblique soreness until the end of the season, according to head athletic trainer Rick McWane, but he'll likely be re-inserted at shortstop on Friday in Detroit.

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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