MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy still doesn't feel like he's rediscovered the swing that he had a couple years ago when he was an All-Star with the Brewers. But the good news is that Hardy thinks that he's close."I feel like I was doing some things that were not helping my swing at all," Hardy said. "[Hitting coach] Joe Vavra picked up on them and we're really working on staying closed with my front side a lot more. I feel like these adjustments I've made have really been giving me a chance to do more with other pitches that I was not able to anything with before. I think my swing is starting to get pretty close to where I was." A bruised left wrist limited Hardy's playing time in the first half, as he played in just 45 games, which included 41 starts. But since returning from his second stint on the disabled list on July 3, Hardy has started to get in a groove at the plate. Hardy batted .379 (11-for-29) with three doubles and three RBIs in his first eight games since his return. That raised his average from .217 to .246 on the season and Friday night, he delivered his first three-hit game of the season. It's been a good stretch for Hardy, but he hopes that it's the start of even better things to come. "I've taken a ton of bad swings starting last year," Hardy said. "I told Joe that I think when I come out of this year-and-a-half long slump, I'm going to be a 10 times better hitter than I ever was because I'm going to know what I'm doing vs. when I was younger and I just kind of did it. For me, it will be a good thing, but it's taken a long time." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he knows how hard Hardy has worked on his swing recently. "He sat out for quite a while with injuries," Gardenhire said. "He's starting to get back into the swing of things and he's doing good."
Crain no longer in a rush
MINNEAPOLIS -- Earlier this season, Twins reliever Jesse Crain was struggling with inconsistent outings and the coaching staff felt it was a result of trying to overthrow the ball.Things have certainly turned around for Crain over the past two months. Crain said that something finally clicked for him during a bullpen session when Twins closer Jon Rauch told him that he was rushing toward home plate. "For some reason, when Rauch said it, it kind of clicked with me," Crain said, acknowledging the club's coaching staff had relayed a similar message. "And that's what I've been doing. I've been staying back and not rushing. At times when I do, I can correct it real quick because I can tell I'm doing it. That's all I've been focusing on when I'm out there and when I do, I know my pitches are going to be there." Since May 20, Crain had not allowed an earned run in 21 of his past 22 appearances, posting an 0.86 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 21 innings. Crain credited his 2 1/3-inning stint in a game at Philadelphia last month for really helping him find a groove with all of his pitches. He acknowledged that while trying not to rush may seem like an easy thing for a pitcher to do, it's a problem that many pitchers battle during their careers. "I've always thrown hard my whole life and sometimes you get caught up in trying to rush the ball up there," Crain said. "Funny thing is, even if you have another mile per hour on the pitch, if it's flat, they hit it. That hurt me a little bit at the beginning of the season." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also credited the change with Crain feeling more comfortable using his breaking pitches rather than just relying on his fastball. "What he's doing better now than he has in a long time is spin the ball," Gardenhire said. "He's walked up and thrown three breaking balls in a row. Before, you were going to get a fastball and he was going to let it fly. I think he's just staying within himself and being a pitcher. You ask Joe Mauer, who catches him more than anybody, and [Jesse] has got as good of stuff as anybody out there if not better." The Twins showed their confidence in Crain when he entered Friday's game in the ninth inning with the tying run at the plate in a bases-loaded, one-out situation. He got Alex Rios to fly out to center field and then struck out Paul Konerko on three pitches to pick up his first save since Sept. 2, 2006. And this one meant a little more to him. "That was more of a real one," Crain said of the save on Friday night. "The one in '06 was a rain-shortened game [at Yankee Stadium]. I came in and got an out in the seventh and then it rained and we didn't finish the game. So I got a save."
Condrey leaning toward surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Clay Condrey could be headed for surgery on his right elbow, which would cut short his season before it even really began.Condrey, who signed a $900,000 contract with the Twins as a free agent in January, has not pitched in a game for the Twins this season because of soreness near his elbow. He's been sidelined with a flexor muscle strain in his right forearm and last week suffered another setback in his recovery during a rehab stint at Triple-A Rochester. Condrey recently visited Mets physician Dr. David Altchek in New York, and he told manager Ron Gardenhire that he probably will undergo surgery on his right arm. "I don't think that's a definite yet," Gardenhire said, "But when I talked to him just a little while ago, he told me he's probably going to have surgery and get his arm fixed." Condrey will meet with Twins physicians to discuss his options and there is a possibility that he could choose an option other than surgery. "He's going to see our doctors and they're going to let me know after that," Gardenhire said. "But just talking to him, he said probably surgery and didn't elaborate on what kind of surgery."
The Twins currently are going with a 13-man pitching staff and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked on Saturday how long that might last. Gardenhire said he doesn't want to stay with that many, but he wants to see how the club gets through the first turn of the rotation before making any changes. ... Joe Mauer was in the designated-hitter spot on Saturday. Gardenhire said that meant Mauer could possibly catch Sunday's series finale, depending on how he's feeling health-wise. ... Matt Tolbert's bruised middle finger on his right hand continues to be sore and he's still not ready to come off the disabled list. Tolbert had more tests done on his finger, but Gardenhire said there is nothing different. "He's just not ready to go yet," Gardenhire said. "It doesn't feel right. It hurts when he throws and hurts when he swings."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.