KANSAS CITY -- Baseball is a game based around routines so when something changes -- even slightly -- it often takes some time to adjust.Such was the case on Friday when the Twins discovered that the time for batting practice had been pushed back at Kauffman Stadium. Instead of taking the field for stretch around 5:15 p.m., the Twins stretch time was pushed back to 5:30 p.m. with batting practice taking place from 5:55 to 6:40 p.m. With batting practice pushing close to game time, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the team has changed the order in which they hit so the starters hit first and get more time to go in the clubhouse and prepare for the game. Gardenhire said that the times for batting practice have been pushed back later in recent years, particularly now that infield practice for both teams has been eliminated. The skipper also said there has been some talk around the game of switching batting practice times for the home and visiting teams. The home team usually takes batting practice first, but that means fans don't always get to see the home team hit. "I like the way it is," Gardenhire said. "I'm old-school like that. But it is what it is."
Punto placed on 15-day disabled list
KANSAS CITY -- Nick Punto has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain, the Twins announced on Friday.Punto has been battling a sore groin muscle and has not played since April 15. He was hoping that the injury would heal with some rest, but he said it's been in a "stalemate" over the last four days, so the decision was made to place him on the DL. "It was one of those things where I thought it would be just a few days," said Punto, who was named the Twins' starting third baseman right before the season began. "We've gone seven days and it hasn't made a whole lot of progress. So that's probably the right thing to do -- go have it looked at in Minnesota tomorrow." Punto will head back to Minnesota on Saturday to get an MRI done on the area and make sure there is nothing more serious. He'll be placed on the DL retroactive to April, 16, so he could return May 1. In nine games this season, Punto is batting .269 with two doubles, a triple and an RBI. With Punto sidelined, Brendan Harris has taken over as the starter at third base. To replace Punto on the roster, the Twins will recall infielder Luke Hughes from Triple-A Rochester. Hughes hit .267 with eight doubles in 12 games for the Red Wings and will join the team on Saturday. Hughes has primarily played second base this season for Rochester, the same position that manager Ron Gardenhire played him during big league Spring Training this year. But Gardenhire said that Hughes can move around the infield and he can also play the outfield. "He's playing really, really good right now and that's when you earn a promotion," Gardenhire said. " If you are playing the best down there, we always tell the guys, 'Be the guy that they send up.' We called down there and [Rochester manager] Tom Nieto said he's the guy." This is not the first time that Punto has battled issues with his groin. Last May, Punto was placed on the DL with a right groin strain. While this might be something the infielder would try to play through late in the season, he knows the best thing to do at this point in the season is to let it fully heal. "You want these things to be behind you," Punto said. "if it was September you'd push it and you know you've got four months to rest it but it's a long season and I don't want anything lingering."
Familiar roles key for Twins bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- One of the concerns out of Spring Training was how the Twins bullpen might fare without All-Star closer Joe Nathan.While Jon Rauch has filled in admirably at the closer spot as he's converted all six of his save opportunities, the rest of the bullpen has done just as well. The bullpen has combined to post a 2.62 ERA, which ranks third in all of baseball behind only Colorado (2.29) and Detroit (2.47). Twins manager Ron Gardenhire believes that being able to keep the majority of the club's relievers in similar roles is one reason for the success. "We like our arms," Gardenhire said. "The only guy that's really in a different position is Rauch. He's done fine with it up to this point. The other guys are in their roles. That's what we told them they'd be in. They are all throwing the ball pretty decent and attacking." That bullpen was back at full strength on Friday night as right-hander Pat Neshek was available. Neshek has been battling some soreness in his right middle finger, but he threw a bullpen session on Thursday without any problems. This is the first time the Twins have had all their relievers available since Neshek last pitched on April 14.
Nick Blackburn (sore posterior right elbow) is still on schedule to start Saturday's contest. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's not concerned about whether the issue might linger since Blackburn has dealt with a similar problem in the past couple seasons and has only missed a total of one start because of the problem. ... Catcher Jose Morales is now beginning to see time in extended spring training games, but only as a DH for now. Morales, who is rehabbing from offseason wrist surgery, has not yet tested his wrist behind the plate. Gardenhire said that Morales will have to prove he can throw runners out before he can return to the Majors. Right now, there is no rush as the Twins are happy with how Drew Butera is filling in the backup spot defensively. ... The Twins entered Friday's game leading the Majors by having grounded into 22 double plays this season.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.