KANSAS CITY -- The Twins still aren't sure if first baseman Justin Morneau will play again this season as he recovers from lingering concussion symptoms. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that it's tough to know when a player is ready to go after a concussion, and that in his playing days, things were a lot different.
"It's up in the air," Gardenhire said. "It's an area that I don't think any of us are too well adept at. It's something that hasn't really been that big of a deal until the last couple of years -- with every sport. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's been brought to the forefront now, the protection of players. There's no telling how many of us played with concussions."
The Twins' skipper himself said he was knocked out twice during games while in the Minor Leagues. One came on a play at the plate in Double-A. Another came after he was hit in the head with a pitch at Triple-A, while in the playoffs.
But partly because of the old school mentality of toughness and partly because of necessity, Gardenhire finished that game after getting knocked out cold. The beaning started a brawl that saw lots of players -- and Gardenhire's manager -- kicked out of the game.
"When I woke up everybody was fighting, so everybody got kicked out," he said. "And we only had nine players left, and I was one of them. So I played. And I don't remember that game."
He didn't play too poorly either, by his spotty recollection of the game.
"I remember I hit an inside-the-park home run after it. I remember the third-base coach telling me, 'I was stopping you the whole way.' I didn't even see him."
Regardless of circumstance, a player in that situation would never return to the game nowadays. But Gardenhire said that's because of new knowledge about concussions, as their seriousness wasn't widely known until recently.
Gardenhire said he doesn't get to talk to the doctors directly, so he isn't sure of the exact nature of Morneau or Denard Span's recovery. And while he hasn't had the science of concussions explained to him directly, he still knows when to hold a player out.
"Do I get it? Yeah," he said. "All I know is that when I listen to a player tell me that he loses sight of the baseball, I don't have to have any more answers than that. I won't play him."
Duensing tosses scoreless frame in return
KANSAS CITY -- One bright spot in the Twins' 7-3 loss to the Royals on Wednesday was the return of pitcher Brian Duensing.
Duensing pitched for the first time since straining an oblique in a start at Anaheim on Sept. 3. The left-hander pitched a scoreless seventh inning, allowing one hit and striking out a batter.
"It feels like it's been a while since I've been out there," he said. "It felt good, it felt like it bounced out of my hand pretty well."
As for now, what the Twins do with Duensing is undecided.
Manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased with Duensing's performance and will try to find another game to put him in as a reliever. Duensing has started 27 of the 29 games he's appeared in this season.
Duensing himself wouldn't mind another start.
"I haven't really lobbied to them yet," he said. "I'd like to get a start, at least one. But we've also got a five-man rotation right now. I think for that to happen, they'd have to mix me in the middle somewhere or I'd have to take someone's spot. I don't know if they'd necessarily want to do that right now."
Duensing began as a long reliever with the Twins, moving between the bullpen and starting staff since debuting in 2009. Like the rest of the Minnesota starters, he has struggled this season, posting a 9-13 record and a 5.31 ERA.
For his career, Duensing has a 3.29 ERA as a reliever and a 4.16 mark as a starter. Whether he ultimately ends up a starter or reliever doesn't really worry him right now.
"I really wouldn't care," Duensing said. "Whatever they want me to do, I really don't mind. I feel like I could do either one. Either way, I'm trying to do the same thing, just throw strikes and do whatever I have to do. It's up to them. I'm not going to fight it, either way. I'm not going to beg or plead or anything like that."
Late-season priority for Mauer is to be healthy
KANSAS CITY -- Right now, the priority for Joe Mauer is not catching, but simply getting healthy.
Mauer has been bugged by numerous injuries after a late start to his season. But right now, there isn't any hurry to keep him behind the plate or see him catch back-to-back games.
"The importance is this winter, him coming back healthy next year," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire has no set amount of games he'd like to see Mauer catch during the last weeks of the season.
"We have no numbers," Gardenhire said. "I refuse to put numbers on it. It's a day-to-day thing. It's day to day on how he's feeling and how the rest of the guys are feeling. I don't see any sense in beating him up. I know he should catch every once in a while."
Mauer has played first base and been in the designated hitter spot to protect his legs, and even played right field once due to other players being out with their own injuries.
That's not to say that Gardenhire isn't advocating that Mauer cuts down on his catching duties. Having the 28-year-old behind the plate gives opportunities for Jason Kubel to DH and for young guys like Chris Parmelee to get playing time.
"For him to catch is a good thing because I can keep Parmelee getting some swings and stuff like that," Gardenhire said.
Cuddyer embracing his role as leader, mentor
KANSAS CITY -- The Twins have used 15 rookies this season. And for veterans like Michael Cuddyer, it's important to show leadership, even during a disappointing season.
"You're trying to set an example," he said. "Even though it's not a great season, you still play hard. You run every ball out and you still try to do all the little things right. And hopefully guys can pick up on that."
Injuries have given guys like Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe and Joe Benson a chance to play almost every day.
While the Twins are on track for their worst season since 2000, Cuddyer hopes that the Minnesota rookies learn to play the same whether they're competing for first or fourth place.
"You try and be the same person, no matter if you're winning or losing," Cuddyer said. "It's hard, but you try and be the same player. You try to be the same person and go about your business the same way.
"That's just being a professional. That's what you try and set, that example of being a professional."
Adam Holt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.