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Updated: May 15th, 2013 7:34pm
Warne: Darin Mastroianni appears to be candidate for 60-day DL

Warne: Darin Mastroianni appears to be candidate for 60-day DL

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by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Darin Mastroianni's long road back from an ankle injury continues to get longer, as the Minnesota Twins outfielder remains without a timetable for his return.

Mastroianni hasn't appeared in a game since April 15, and may be a candidate for the 60-day disabled list if the Twins end up needing a 40-man roster spot in the near future, according to assistant general manager Rob Antony.

Mastroianni is out of the walking boot and is doing some straight-line running, but is unable to cut, and according to Antony, experienced a little discomfort when he tried to cut loose and do some sprints in recent days.

"He's still testing it out," Antony said. "I think he tried to cut it loose a little bit. I don't think it was comfortable."

Mastroianni seemed pretty pessimistic about his progress. "We've used the last couple days -- since I got out of the boot on Friday -- to test it and see how it feels," he said. "It's still pretty sore and painful. We're doing the best we can trying to get it rehabbed and see what our next move will be."

That next move may in fact be to the 60-day DL -- which could open up a 40-man spot for Samuel Deduno or Clete Thomas.

"If it doesn't improve, we'll probably have to figure out exactly what we're doing to do," Antony said. "We could retroactively 60-day (DL) him if we needed to. But that's going to depend on how soon we think he's going to be back. Talking to the doctors, we'll probably make a decision here in the next day or two on what the next step is."

As expected, Mastroianni is extremely frustrated by the lack of progression in his healing.

"(I've) never had anything like this," Mastroianni said. "I mean growing up I broke my ankle as a kid, but as a professional, I've never had anything that's kept me out this long. I had Tommy John surgery one offseason and was still ready for opening day, so this has been extremely frustrating, just the lack of progression on a weekly basis."

With the amount of time Mastroianni has missed, he feels basically back to square one in terms of being in baseball shape, seeing pitches and reacting. "It almost feels like spring training again. With this injury I haven't played much all year," Mastroianni said. "It's mid-May, and including spring training, I have a total of like 45 at bats."

That lack of time all but guarantees a lengthy rehab stint for Mastroianni. Players are allowed to have a rehab stint of up to 30 days before their status must be updated. "There's no doubt in my mind I'm going to have to go down there and play some games. I don't know how many -- that'll be up to them. Whatever they feel I need to get ready," he said.

So how does he keep his sanity in the meantime?

"I don't," Mastroianni said. "I just try control myself. Guys walk by me every day and ask how bored I am. You can't do anything but sit back, and watch, and cheer. I get in the cage just to do some sanity work. You're used to being out there on the field this time of year, and you're in the training room playing scrabble hooked up to machine after machine, trying to get yourself ready. It's pretty boring."

Positive impact

It's pretty evident that bench coach Terry Steinbach has had a positive effect on Twins catchers Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit. Indirectly, at least according to some in the organization, Steinbach has helped pitchers and catchers alike, and he's at least partly to credit for a team ERA of 4.21 -- still not great but over a half-run lower than last year's 4.77 mark.

But Twins catchers have also shown marked improvement behind the plate, especially as it pertains to controlling the running game.

Twins catchers have thrown out 45 percent of attempted base thieves in 2013. Last year, that mark tumbled to 18 percent as the Twins were robbed blind pretty much across the board.

So where exactly has Steinbach's approach taken hold?

According to manager Ron Gardenhire, it was from the get-go. "Starting in spring training, Steiny worked on guys' preparation. Going over the hitters, controlling the game," Gardenhire said. "He does a really good job of that, sitting in on the pitcher and catcher meetings before each game and letting them know what guys to not give into, and what guys to not let hurt you."

But Steinbach's work with the catchers has been focused and detailed, and dates to the days before he was a Twin, when he was a three-time All Star who routinely threw out 40-plus percent of opposing base runners

"He's really good, he's been there and done it," Gardenhire said. "He helped Joe out with his throwing, and Doumit as well. He's very good with technique."

Gardenhire also appreciates that Steinbach is now a full-time staff member, rather than just a special instructor in spring training. "It's good to have him here full time," Gardenhire said. "He puts a lot of effort into (his job), and is very aware. He has a passion for it. He's been really good."

Antony noted that he appreciates not only Steinbach's experience, but that he's a steadying hand to a team that has desperately needed one the past two seasons.

"Just the fact that he's got 14 years of major league experience and everything else, in handling pitchers and brings a lot of energy," Antony said. "He's a positive, upbeat guy. If we go out and have a tough game and give up 10 runs, he's not a guy who is going to come in dragging the next day. He's going to come right back to work."

Odds and ends

• The Twins insist Josh Willingham is healthy, and that his .205/.378/.411 batting line is just part of the ebbs and flows that come with being a streaky, but patient power hitter. "Yeah, he's fine," Gardenhire said. "He's a home run hitter; those guys are going to swing as miss. We just gotta get him going."

Willingham has struggled with injuries in the past, as 2012 marked only the third time in his nine-year career that he had played more 140 games. Willingham has missed four games so far, and has filled the DH role in five others as he's battled a few nagging injuries.

• There was some brief miscommunication about Kyle Gibson before Wednesday's game. Gibson struggled with command in the second inning of Tuesday's outing, and only completed three innings with 69 pitches and four earned runs as the Red Wings lost to the Durham Bulls 4-1.

But Gibson is healthy, though a report came before Wednesday's game that he was having his arm looked at. That report was actually in regards to right-handed reliever Tim Wood, who has been taken off his rehab stint and looks likely to be shut down or at least backed off a while because of a shoulder injury. Antony expects Wood's MRI results from today to be read tomorrow before the team can prepare a course of action.

Numbers game

12: The number of strikeouts for Pedro Florimon between walks. Prior to his sixth inning free pass, Florimon had last walked on April 16. To that point, Florimon had walked six times and only struck out three times.

14: The number of stolen bases for the Twins, ranking 27th among 30 big league teams. The Twins have been caught eight times. For context, Jean Segura leads the major leagues with 13 stolen bases.

71: The number of doubles the Twins have hit. For a team that has shown limited power, the Twins rank eighth in the major leagues in doubles.

4: The number of sacrifice hits -- not counting sacrifice flies -- for the Twins this season. The Twins are tied for the fourth-fewest sacrifice hits in baseball.

6: The number of attempted base stealers Joe Mauer has caught (out of 11). That gives Mauer a 55 percent caught stealing rate. Last year Mauer only threw out 14 percent -- a career-low by a long shot.

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
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