Pregame notes: Joe Mauer back in starting lineup
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer (heel) officially returned to action last night against the Orioles with a bases-loaded pinch hit appearance in the bottom of the eighth inning.
But today, he officially, officially returns. Manager Ron Gardenhire penciled the reigning MVP into the starting lineup as the designated hitter. Mauer will bat third, with Wilson Ramos handling the catching duties.
"Everybody tells me he's fine," Gardenhire said. "He tells me he's fine. He's been running. The trainers, the doctors all say he's ready to go."
Mauer had been taking batting practice for much of the past few days leading up to his pinch hit appearance last night, but the main concern was sprinting on the basepaths. Mauer and the team medical staff have given him the green light to cut it loose.
"I think I'm running pretty good," Mauer said. "Good to go."
"It felt good to just get out there (last night). Wish I would have had a different result... It felt like a lot longer than a week. (The ovation) was pretty neat. I wanted to hit the ball so hard when I got up there, but it didn't work out that way."
Gardenhire said if all goes well, Mauer will catch in Tuesday night's game against the White Sox.
With Mauer back in the lineup, the Twins currently have three healthy catchers on the roster. Gardenhire said he'd like to wait until he is sure Mauer can withstand nine innings behind the plate before sending either Ramos or Drew Butera, who came up with a huge hit last night, back to Rochester.
Gardenhire is also waiting on shortstop J.J. Hardy, who remains sidelined with a sore wrist.
"We're just kind of on hold," Gardenhire said. "Going to see where Hardy's at over the next couple days, and if he's not getting any better, if he's still a little sore again today, then we might look into doing something there too. If it's going to be another four or five days, then we'll probably end up making a roster move there.
"If Hardy is out, I'm definitely going to have to get an infielder. That's for sure."
Hardy will attempt to play catch at some point over the next couple days.
* Second baseman Orlando Hudson, who tweaked his shoulder while diving for a ball up the middle last night, will sit out his first game of the season. Alexi Casilla will start at second base and bat ninth.
"He was pretty sore, so I don't want to mess around with him," Gardenhire said. "Give him a blow, then we have a day off tomorrow.
"He said he's available if I need him."
* RHP Nick Blackburn (2-1, 5.79) will face LHP Brian Matusz (2-2, 3.93). Matusz is one of the most promising young lefties in the game.
Blackburn will attempt to carry over the momentum of his complete game performance against Detroit last week.
* RHP Pat Neshek is currently undergoing treatment for inflammation near the top of his palm, and he is likely to receive another cortisone shot next week.
When Neshek is ready to throw again -- probably in a couple weeks -- Gardenhire said the team will send him on either a rehab assignment or a minor league stint.
* LHP Jose Mijares was roughed up for three earned runs and four hits in Friday night's game for Class-AAA Rochester. According to Gardenhire, Mjiares (elbow) felt good throwing the ball, but the results obviously wasn't ideal. Mijares is likely to pitch again today before being re-evaluated early this week.