MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Baker looks and feels good for his next start scheduled for Monday against the Indians, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on Friday.Baker had a cortisone shot in his right elbow because of tendinitis last Friday and has been monitored since. He threw a bullpen session on Friday, which Gardenhire said went really well. "He did fantastic," Gardenhire said of Baker. "We were concerned about that because [the soreness] could still be there, but it's not. He says he feels great today. He was letting it fly and threw a bullpen session with no restrictions, so that was a really good sign for us." The Twins are looking forward to Baker's next start and will continue to watch his pitch count -- as they do with all of their starters -- to make sure he is staying on track and doesn't take a step backward. Baker will go up against the Indians' Aaron Laffey on Monday.
Nathan to begin throwing on Saturday
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Twins closer Joe Nathan went down in Spring Training with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, it seemed like a long road to recovery.However, Nathan will take a big step in his rehab process on Saturday when he is expected to throw before the Twins' game against the White Sox. The drill won't be anything more than just flipping the ball a short distance back and forth, but it is a step in the right direction for the closer. "I'm excited," Nathan said. "It's just going to be playing catch, but I'm excited to break up the monotony of what I've been doing. I'm excited to actually play this game that I'm supposed to get paid for." Nathan, who tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery on March 26 has been lifting one- to two-pound weights to help rebuild muscle and increase stamina since his rehab stint started. He said his improvements have come from listening to the doctors and trainers and not trying to push anything. That way, he would avoid setbacks that would make the season-long recovery take even longer. "Sure, there's going to be ups and downs, but if I stay on target and stay on track, I can continue to have success and stride forward without slowing down," Nathan said. "I put myself in the best position to start pitching. I know it's still a long road to go, but I'm excited to know part of that is on the baseball field." Nathan said he's not nervous at all to pick up a baseball again. Although he's heard stories of other pitchers who have had a rough time throwing a ball their first time after undergoing this type of surgery, he said he doesn't foresee any problems. He said he feels this way considering that when he throws a sponge ball to his kids, everything goes well. Although that is a long way from playing baseball, Nathan said that he feels confident that the session will go well. Nathan said Saturday's session will start a roughly five-month throwing program where he will start at a short distance and slowly work up to pitching off the mound. The Twins organization is excited that the closer is making this next step in his recovery. "It's been a long time, and he's worked really, really hard," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You kind of look for baby steps, and that's the first baby step as far as having a baseball in his hand."
Twins will turn to Cuddyer at first base
MINNEAPOLIS -- With Twins first baseman Justin Morneau's move to the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, the Twins have some things to consider when it comes to who will play first base.Michael Cuddyer has been playing first base since Morneau's injury and has filled in for him on other occasions, as well. However, if any shuffling were to happen, the Twins realize they are not as deep at first base as they'd like to be in these types of situations. Manager Ron Gardenhire said the club could turn to infielder Nick Punto if need be but joked that Punto would be a smaller target than the team is used to. Gardenhire also said catcher Drew Butera could be an option in an emergency situation. Although designated hitter Jim Thome has had plenty of experience at first base, Gardenhire said it was highly unlikely that the Twins would turn to him to take over for Morneau. "That wouldn't happen unless Thome would consider it and bring it up to me," Gardenhire said. "I really don't want to take too many chances with him in the infield." Hopefully the Twins won't need to worry about it for too long as Morneau is eligible to come off the DL on July 23. The first baseman suffered a concussion against Toronto on July 8 and is still dealing with symptoms from that accidental knee to his head. He was placed on the DL on Thursday after experiencing some fogginess after his workout earlier that day. Gardenhire said the best thing for Morneau is to stay at home the next few days, and the slugger won't be considered able to play until he can go 24 hours after a workout without experiencing any headaches or fogginess. "The best thing would be to stay away from the ballpark here for a few days," Gardenhire said. "Maybe staying away this weekend and coming back Monday. I'd say that's how it will go unless his wife kicks him out or something."
Mauer banged up exiting All-Star break
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer had a rough first half -- literally.Entering the All-Star break earlier this week, Mauer admitted that he was banged up and could use a few days off. However, he still decided to participate in the Midsummer Classic because he was the top vote-getter and finds it an honor to be asked to play. But with the regular season resuming, Mauer said he doesn't feel much better now than he did before the break. Manager Ron Gardenhire expressed his concern about Mauer's status and said he is going to do everything he can to ensure that his catcher has a healthy second half. "I told him he has to let me know how he is and not get banged up in the second half, and I'll give him breaks when he needs it," Gardenhire said. "I always try to give him day games after night games off, and we'll probably do that more in the second half than we did in the first." Mauer said the All-Star break didn't feel much like a break, but he had fun nonetheless. However, he said he knows what he has to do to avoid getting further banged-up in the remainder of the season. "You just have to get in here early and try to take care of yourself," Mauer said. "It's baseball, it's every day. It's not like you get days to rest and things like that. But, you know, just try to take care of yourself as best you can. Things are going to happen, but you do the best you can."
Twins pitcher Brian Duensing said that he felt much better before Friday's game against the White Sox. The lefty wasn't at the ballpark on Thursday because he stayed home with flu-like symptoms. He said the sickness affected not only his stomach, but his head, making him groggy. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Duensing would be available to pitch Friday if need be. ... With the Twins bullpen pitching six innings in Thursday's game against the White Sox, Gardenhire said that Alex Burnett and Jesse Crain wouldn't be available on Friday, to let them recover from their high pitch counts the night before. ... Right-hander Jeff Manship was called up after Justin Morneau was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday night. The Twins now have 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster. Gardenhire said that the plethora of arms is most likely temporary, but it will depend on how Friday's game played out.
Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.