Morales not a lock to return when healthy
Backup catcher must prove he can throw out baserunners
MINNEAPOLIS -- Catcher Jose Morales has been in Fort Myers, Fla., as he continues to rehab from right wrist surgery that he had in January, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Morales won't automatically return as the club's backup catcher once he's healthy.For Morales to replace Drew Butera in the backup role, Gardenhire said that Morales will have to show that he can make strong throws from behind the plate on his Minor League rehab stint. "Morales, if he can't throw, he is not going to be able to be our backup catcher," Gardenhire said. "You have to be able to come up and throw somebody out. That's the bottom line. He had a bad wrist. His arm was hurting in Spring Training and we can't go through that." Gardenhire has been pleased with what he's seen from Butera early on in terms of calling a game and handling the running game from behind the plate. While Gardenhire knows that Morales can call a game and is more of a hitter than Butera, he wants to make sure that there aren't any concerns about the running game with Morales. "The day Joe doesn't play, they can't run all over us. We won't have that," Gardenhire said. "We're looking for a catch-and-throw guy for our backup catcher. He can hit. We know that. But he's still got to be able to do the other part -- catch and throw. He calls a good game. But he's got to be able to throw somebody out."
Thome gets first Target Field start
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Thome made his first appearance in the Twins' starting lineup at Target Field on Thursday, as he was slotted in as the designated hitter.Jason Kubel shifted over to left field and Delmon Young was on the bench as the Twins faced veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that none of his players really have strong numbers against Wakefield, including Young, who has been swinging well and is batting .346 on the season, so he felt this would be a good time to insert Thome into the lineup. "Thome's got a few homers off of him, and that ball is going to be floating in there," Gardenhire said. "If [Wakefield] makes a mistake, then Thome can put it in the seats. [I figured I would] give Delmon a chance not to get screwed up with this guy like the other guys can. I just think it's a fun day when Thome is facing a knuckleballer like that. We'll see what happens. If he floats one in the wrong place, it can be Babe Ruth all over."
Neshek to have middle finger examined
MINNEAPOLIS -- Pat Neshek has an issue with the flexor tendon in the middle finger on his right hand and will have it examined by doctors on Thursday.Neshek said he's been dealing with some soreness in the finger below the knuckle over his past few outings. The right-hander noticed it while the club was in Anaheim last week, but that hasn't stopped him from pitching. The pain, however, wasn't going away and the finger felt worse following Neshek's two scoreless innings in Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Red Sox. Neshek said it was hard to bend his finger after the outing, and so the plan was to have the team doctors look at it. "Today, it's the same as when I got out of the game," Neshek said. "It's stiff, tough to bend it. If it's getting a little bit worse each time, I don't want to see what's worse after this." Neshek wasn't going to be available for Thursday's contest after throwing 36 pitches. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if he's concerned about the injury. "Not until I can't use him, then there is concern," Gardenhire said. "Today, there is no concern, because I can't really use him anyway."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-hander Brian Duensing has a case of the stomach flu. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that it would be a game-time decision whether or not Duensing would be available to pitch out of the bullpen. ... Left-hander Ron Mahay was in the clubhouse on Thursday morning after having his contract purchased on Wednesday. He was available to pitch if needed, and did. He threw a perfect inning in the ninth, striking out two batters in the Twins' 8-0 victory. ... Joe Mauer entered Thursday's game vs. the Red Sox with an eight-game hitting streak, and he is batting .400 during that stretch, with seven RBIs, a home run and a .500 on-base percentage.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.