MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Joe Nathan, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24 with a right flexor muscle strain, faced Joe Mauer and prospect Miguel Sano in live batting practice on Wednesday, and is scheduled to fly back to the Twin Cities on Thursday.

Nathan told local reporters in Fort Myers, Fla., that he was ready to return to action with the Twins, but manager Ron Gardenhire said Nathan is only coming back to get checked out by doctors before heading to Triple-A Rochester for a rehab stint.

"I read a report that he's really close, but that's to be decided," Gardenhire said. "Our plan is for him to go to Triple-A and face hitters in a game situation two or three times. I guess there's a discrepancy. He believes he's ready to go. I heard that, I read that. So we'll have a conversation with him."

Nathan, who had Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of last season, struggled with a 7.63 ERA in 15 1/3 innings this year before being placed on the disabled list.

Nishioka activated, to play short on Thursday

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins activated infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka from the 60-day disabled list before Wednesday's game against the White Sox, but he was held out of the starting lineup with the plan to start him at shortstop on Thursday.

Nishioka missed 59 games because of a fractured left fibula suffered on April 7 when Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher slid into him at second base while trying to break up a double play. He replaced first baseman Justin Morneau on the 25-man roster after Morneau was placed on the 15-day DL with a left wrist strain on Tuesday. Left-hander Dusty Hughes was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester to make room for Nishioka on the 40-man roster.

"He's active for the game and I can use him, so I told him I might pinch-hit him late in the game or whatever," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But he'll be in the lineup tomorrow."

As part of his rehab process, Nishioka played in extended spring training before playing four games with Class A Fort Myers and three games with Triple-A Rochester. He batted a combined .333 with a .448 on-base percentage in the Minors, while playing shortstop in all seven games.

But Nishioka, who began the year as the Twins' starting second baseman before his injury, worked out at both second and short during his rehab stint. Gardenhire said he expects Nishioka to be the club's starting shortstop moving forward with Alexi Casilla shifting to second base.

"I felt really comfortable playing shortstop, so I told Gardy that I'm comfortable at any position -- second or shortstop," Nishioka said through translator Ryo Shinkawa. "Whatever he decides, I'll be comfortable playing it."

Nishioka will also be playing in his first game at Target Field, as he was injured before the Twins' first home game of the season on April 8.

"I was looking forward to playing in front of the fans at Target Field, so it will be special for me," Nishioka said.

Mauer likely to start behind the plate on Friday

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer could be back in the Twins lineup at catcher by Friday, manager Ron Gardenhire said before Wednesday's game.

Mauer is scheduled to fly back to Minnesota on Thursday to rejoin the club. After being examined by team doctors, Mauer is expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on Friday in time to start at catcher against the Padres.

"We'll probably have him for Friday," Gardenhire said. "Good chance [he'll catch Friday]. Really good chance."

Mauer batted .261/.370/.849 in seven games with Class A Advanced Fort Myers, with two doubles, one home run, six RBIs and three walks.

He also took swings against Twins reliever Joe Nathan on Wednesday at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers.

"Everything went good," Gardenhire said. "He took I don't know how many at-bats off of Nathan. [He] swung the bat really good, hit the ball hard."

Perkins expected to bolster bullpen on Friday

MINNEAPOLIS -- Lefty reliever Glen Perkins is expected to be activated in time for Friday night against the Padres, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on Wednesday.

Perkins worked the seventh and eighth innings on Tuesday for Triple-A Rochester, giving up three hits and striking out one in two scoreless innings. In two rehab appearances, Perkins tossed three shutout innings while giving up four hits and recording two strikeouts.

"Best-case scenario is, more than likely, activate him for Friday," Gardenhire said. "Give him two days off after throwing two innings. Considering [Thursday] is a day game, if it were a night game, it might be a little different."

Perkins will be checked out by Twins doctors and trainers once he rejoins the club in Minnesota, and if everything goes well, he will be activated.

When he returns, the Twins will be forced to send someone from the bullpen back to the Minors. It would likely be a lefty, unless Gardenhire decides to carry four lefty relievers.

"I haven't really got into it yet," Gardenhire said. "I know which way I was leaning, but if I tell you that, then you'll know exactly where we're at, and I'm not going to tell you that."

Twins head trainer Rick McWane gave updates on other injured Twins players, with all of them making progress, but without a timetable for their returns.

Designated hitter Jim Thome (left quad strain) took batting practice on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.

"He has yet to face [live pitching], but he is very close," McWane said.

With a road trip to a pair of National League cities in San Francisco and Milwaukee coming up, Thome's return becomes a bit more complicated than it otherwise would be.

Thome could be valuable in a late-inning pinch-hit role against NL clubs, but would not be able to start for an entire week.

"Jim Thome coming up could win a ballgame for you," Gardenhire said. "It's one at-bat per day. Can we do better for him and get him in a rehab situation and get him maybe three or four? Does he need that? Can he handle that? Those are all the things we're talking about and trying to see which route we're going to go.

"I like the idea of having him and walking him up to the plate in a big situation, but I want him healthy in the first place and I want to make sure it's the right thing to do for him."

Right-hander Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) threw long toss on Wednesday with no problems.

Jason Kubel (left foot sprain) and Denard Span (concussion) are continuing to improve, though neither seems close to returning.

"They're not ready to go yet," McWane said. "We don't have a timetable yet on them, but we'll continue to progress them as they're able."