FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins closer Joe Nathan will take the mound in a game for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March when the Twins host the Red Sox on Tuesday afternoon at Hammond Stadium.Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed Friday that Nathan would see his first game action when he announced the tentative pitching rotation for the first week of Spring Training games. As previously announced, Carl Pavano will start the Twins' Grapefruit League opener on Sunday night against the Red Sox. Right-hander Nick Blackburn will pitch two innings in Monday's contest against Boston, with Kevin Slowey seeing action in relief. Scott Baker, who felt great after his live batting practice session on Friday afternoon, will get the start on Tuesday in the third straight contest against the Red Sox. Brian Duensing will then start Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., with Pavano pitching Thursday's contest against the Orioles in Sarasota. Francisco Liriano, who arrived at camp with left shoulder soreness, is scheduled to make his first start next Friday against the Rays, although he has yet to face hitters in live batting practice this spring.
Elbow extension nice byproduct for Baker
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One thing that Scott Baker has noticed since having bone chips removed from his right elbow this past offseason is the increased extension that he's getting with his elbow.And the Twins right-hander said that some of the "funny feeling" he's dealt with in his elbow since suffering a slight setback in his recovery earlier this month might just be from adjusting to having that extra extension. "It's just a little more range of motion than I had before with the junk that was in there," Baker said. "I think that's just part of it, getting used to the repetitive extending of the arm multiple times in one day. It's getting better every day." Baker threw live batting practice for the first time on Friday afternoon and reported feeling good afterward. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire watched the session and said that Baker's throwing motion looked free and easy, which is what he was hoping to see from the starter. The only pitch that has bothered Baker's elbow recently has been his changeup, which he said is no surprise considering that it's a pitch that involves a little more extension and pronation of the elbow. He threw about a "half dozen" changeups on Friday, although it's not a pitch he uses often in games. And while it's taken Baker some time to get used to his additional extension, he believes it's something that will be an advantage moving forward. "I feel like I'm able to get out front more consistently," Baker said. "And that's always a good thing for pitchers, finishing your pitches. It allows you to keep the ball down in the zone." Baker said that he's scheduled to throw to hitters again on Sunday before making his first spring start on Tuesday.
Painful foot ailment keeping Cuddyer out
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer sat out Friday's workout and could miss a few more days due to a painful wart on his left foot.Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Cuddyer is battling some soreness in the foot and that the outfielder might need to have the wart removed if it continues to be sore. If that's the case, Gardenhire estimated that Cuddyer could miss somewhere between 4-5 days. Cuddyer tried to treat the wart himself with medication this winter, Gardenhire said, but it ended up getting infected. "We kept him off the field and we are going to see how he does [Saturday]," Gardenhire said. "That growth that he had taken off his foot has really affected him and got really sore, so we backed off today and we are going to know more tomorrow. If it continues to stay sore, we are going to have the whole thing taken out." Gardenhire also said that Cuddyer told him he should be OK by Saturday. Cuddyer isn't the only Twins outfielder that's been hampered by foot problems recently. Delmon Young has been battling a case of turf toe in his big left toe, and has been limited in running drills over the past few days. But Gardenhire said that Young's toe is getting better and he should be ready to play in Sunday night's Grapefruit League opener against the Red Sox.
It's still unclear whether Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek will be taking part in the club's Spring Training this year. Stelmaszek is recovering from surgery to fix a detached retina in his right eye, and doctors are concerned how the bright sun in Florida might affect his recovery. The hope had been that Stelmaszek might be able to join the Twins sometime soon, but Gardenhire said the team is deciding what is best for Stelmaszek so that he doesn't have any setbacks. "We are going to make sure we take care of his eye," Gardenhire said. "It's about doing the right thing." ... In what's become an annual tradition, the Twins made their team T-shirts for the 2011 season. This year, the T-shirts on the front say, "WIN" and on the back they read, "Don't be denied." ... Minnesota did bring in another catcher to help out with its catching shortage in big league camp. Minor Leaguer Dan Rohlfing joined the club this week. Gardenhire confirmed that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will not be playing in Sunday night's spring opener, which was expected. Drew Butera will get the start at catcher in place of Mauer, although Gardenhire reiterated that Mauer will catch starter Carl Pavano on Opening Day.