MINNEAPOLIS -- Even though Sunday marked Danny Valencia's 26th birthday, it seems the Twins' rookie third baseman's birthday wishes have already come true.
Valencia has impressed Twins fans with his stellar defense and clutch hitting since joining Minnesota in June.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Valencia's success is due to his willingness to watch and learn from his more accomplished teammates and coaches.
"He's learned the game and how to handle himself. He's listened to other hitters, he's watched film of pitchers. The physical ability is there. When we got him up here he was willing to listen and he worked. He is a nice looking player," Gardenhire said.
Valencia had the highest batting average on the team at .340 heading into Sunday's tilt with Oakland. He has also added four home runs and 33 RBIs.
Valencia's addition to the team has done something else; it has stabilized the third base position for the Twins. For several years Minnesota has looked for someone to take over the third base position, and it looks like Valencia is finally the man to do the job for years to come.
Mauer to miss a few games after injuring knee
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are not panicking over Joe Mauer's early departure from Sunday's 6-2 loss to Oakland due to a sore left knee, but that doesn't mean there isn't concern about how many games the catcher might miss.
Initially after Sunday's game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he didn't believe Mauer's injury to be serious. Mauer is listed as day to day, but considering this is the same knee in which he tore his meniscus during his rookie year in 2004, the Twins are holding their breath.
"Hopefully it's just a couple of days and go from there," Gardenhire said.
Mauer injured his knee after grounding out to second in the sixth inning of Sunday's game.
"I was running down the baseline," he said. "It started getting a little worse and worse, and I thought it was the right time to get out of the game."
Mauer said he has no idea how bad the knee is, but that he will probably be out for at least a couple of days.
"I don't know. They say it's day to day. I really don't know a whole lot right now. Obviously, I'd rather not have this going on, but here it is."
The Twins will take a wait and see approach when it comes to Mauer. For the time being, Mauer's knee will get a heavy dose of ice and see how the knee is tomorrow.
"I'm just trying to get back on the field. I don't know a whole lot right now. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to get back there."
Gardenhire ejected after odd double play
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected from Sunday's 6-2 loss against the A's in the fourth inning after what looked to be a dropped catch on a fly ball hit by Jim Thome ended up costing the Twins two outs.
With the Twins trailing, 3-0, in the fourth, Thome lifted a fly ball to A's outfielder Rajai Davis with Delmon Young on first and no outs. It looked as if Davis dropped the ball after trying to transfer it to his throwing hand, but confusion ensued as Young ran to second base.
Second-base umpire John Hirschbeck determined that Davis did catch the ball and Young was doubled off first base while standing on second.
Gardenhire was tossed from the game by Hirschbeck while arguing the call for several minutes. It marked the fifth time this season Gardenhire was thrown out of a game.
After the game, Gardenhire said that the initial decision was that it was not a catch, and that is why Young ran to second.
"I just know that it wasn't right," Gardenhire said about the play. "I was arguing that their signals gave our guy a chance to go to second. He had nowhere else to go. That was a screwed up event. Mistakes were made, and we will leave it at that."
Four-man rotation for Twins if they're in playoffs
MINNEAPOLS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire indicated the club would use a four-man rotation once the playoffs begin, if and when Minnesota clinches the American League Central Division.
"We haven't got there, but it sounds about right," Gardenhire said. "That's probably how things will set up if we get there."
Gardenhire declined to talk playoffs any further and wouldn't say who would make up the four-man playoff rotation, but Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing seem to be likely candidates to fill three-fourths of the spots. The fourth starter is likely to be one of three pitchers -- Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey.
Baker will return to the rotation Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians. He has not pitched since Sept. 2 due to tendinitis in right elbow. After throwing a bullpen session on Saturday, the decision was made that Baker was good to go on Tuesday.
"Baker Tuesday, that's the plan," Gardenhire said.
The Twins manager will be more open about setting a rotation when the Twins finally clinch a division title. Gardenhire said it would be nice to clinch a playoff berth at Target Field, but he wants it to happen sooner rather than later no matter where it is.
"You would love to be able to do it here so our fans have a chance to enjoy," he said. "The quicker the better."
Several Twins dealing with minor ailments
MINNEAPOLIS -- The night before his Sunday start against Oakland, Francisco Liriano had a sleepless night because he was suffering from a rash on his arm and chest.
"He was up all night scratching and itching," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The rash did not get in the way of Liriano making his start. Gardenhire said doctors checked out Liriano prior to Sunday's game and the left-hander was able to take a nap before Minnesota's 1:10 p.m. start.
"He said he definitely wants to pitch," Gardenhire said. "I am glad he is pitching today."
Two Twins regulars were also suffering from minor injuries that kept them out of the starting lineup Sunday.
Outfielders Denard Span and Jason Kubel are on the mend and both took some swings prior to Sunday's game with Oakland. Span will miss his third consecutive start on Sunday due to tightness in his right shoulder. Kubel is still suffering from a sore left wrist. The good news is both players appear to be improving.
"Span said he is feeling better and will probably be available for the game," Gardenhire said.
Rookie Ben Revere will start in place of Span for the third consecutive game. Jason Repko will fill in for Kubel in right field.
One other change to the starting lineup is the addition of Nick Punto, who is starting at second base in place of Orlando Hudson. Punto recently came off the disabled list after suffering a hamstring injury.
"It's a good day to give Hudson a day. We will give Nicky a chance to get some at-bats and get out there," Gardenhire said.
Heading into Sunday's action, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was just two wins away from 800 career victories as a big league manager.
A victory for Francisco Liriano on Sunday would be his 15th of the season. Twins right-hander Carl Pavano has already reached the 15-win mark. With another Liriano victory it would be the first time the Twins had multiple pitchers win 15 games in a season since 2001 when Joe Mays, Eric Milton and Brad Radke all won at least 15 games.
Minnesota owns the best record in baseball since the All-Star break at 43-17 (.717). Over the past 15 seasons, just one team, the 2001 Oakland A's, had a better post All-Star break winning percentage. Oakland was 58-17 (.773) after the break in 2001.
Joe Kieser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.