DETROIT -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been telling infielder Alexi Casilla to throw the ball to first base with more zip all season. Unfortunately, Casilla heeded his skipper's advice on Saturday during batting practice.

Casilla attempted to twist a double play from second base without looking over to first base before delivering. Gardenhire expected to catch a throw from J.J. Hardy at first base when a miscommunication resulted in Casilla's throw striking him in the side of the head.

"It was the best throw he's made all year -- the most accurate anyway," Gardenhire said. "I've been telling him all year, 'Quit lobbing the ball and throw the ball, son.' I just didn't know he'd do it in BP."

Gardenhire's right ear required surgery in the clubhouse during Saturday's 11-10 loss to the Tigers to alleviate pressure and prevent cauliflower ear. He said he didn't know how many stitches it required, but that "the last six stitches hurt" when the pain medicine wore off.

Gardenhire toughed it out and managed Sunday's series finale, and actually had hopes of returning to the dugout during Saturday's marathon game before deciding on the impromptu surgery.

"I'll be out there today unless I get hit in the ear again," Gardenhire said before Sunday's game. "I would have been out there yesterday, but they did surgery. I thought they were just going to drain it and I was going to go to the dugout. But once they started doing surgery, they told me, 'You need to stay.' I've never had that before."

Gardenhire said he had a difficult time hearing on Sunday morning, but the doctors checked him out and said permanent damage wasn't likely.

"They looked at it and said it looks fine," he said. "It's red and there's a little blood, but they seem to think everything is fine."

Mauer could return as DH in KC

DETROIT -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said catcher Joe Mauer may return to the starting lineup as a designated hitter in the club's next series in Kansas City.

Gardenhire said he plans on using Mauer in a designated-hitter role before allowing him to return to duty behind the plate. The 27-year-old jammed his knee on Sept. 19, but an MRI exam displayed good results, showing only inflammation of tissue in the knee.

"If he plays and does OK [as DH] and he wants to catch, then we will probably put him back there," Gardenhire said. "I'm not too worried about him. If he wants to DH and get some swings, that's fine."

Mauer did agility work with strength and conditioning coach Perry Castellano on Saturday and received a cortisone shot in his knee on Wednesday in hopes of a quick return. But with the division already clinched, Gardenhire doesn't want Mauer to return to action if he's not ready and risk further injury.

"We will just go day-to-day," Gardenhire said. "No guarantees. We'll see how he feels and see what he'll like to do. The main thing for him is just getting healthy."

Mauer said his knee has improved "a little bit each day" since receiving the cortisone shot. He said he expects to be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs on Oct. 6, at the very latest.

"It's going to have to be pretty bad for me not to be out there," Mauer said. "I'm just trying to make it feel better before it gets to that point."

Twins continue to nurse several injuries

DETROIT -- With the way the Twins were banged up on Sunday, one might think they were a football team, not a baseball club. Luckily, Minnesota has already clinched the American League Central crown, so the only thing still at stake is a chance to secure home-field advantage up until the World Series.

For now, the club needs rest -- and plenty of treatment -- before the playoffs begin.

"There was a lot of action in that training room," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Saturday's injuries.

Denard Span was out of the lineup with a sore leg after accidentally hitting himself with a foul ball in the 13th inning on Saturday. Span left Comerica Park late Saturday night and said he felt fine, but it was a different story when woke up on Sunday.

"I woke up this morning and it was swollen and definitely stiff," Span said. "When I got out of bed, I almost fell down. But it will be all right."

J.J. Hardy had a similar experience when he got out of bed on Sunday. He also felt fine when he left Comerica Park on Saturday, but woke up Sunday morning with a swollen left knee. He said he couldn't point to a specific play where he might have injured it.

Hardy will have his knee examined by doctors on Sunday, but doesn't expect it to be anything serious.

"Really, I feel like the only thing making it stiff is the swelling," Hardy said. "It doesn't hurt. I assume when the swelling goes down, if there's no pain other than being stiff from the soreness, I think there shouldn't be anything wrong. I don't know why it's swollen."

Slugger Jim Thome received his third straight day off on Sunday. He's still nursing a sore lower left back that has been causing him problems since arriving in Detroit.

"It's like I have a big knot in there," Thome said. "I don't know if it's a spasm or not. It's been three days or so. I'm hoping to get this thing moving along pretty quickly here and get some at-bats here next week before we go into the postseason."

Jason Repko was also kept out of the lineup on Sunday with a contusion on his thumb after he was hit by a pitch on Saturday. X-rays came back negative, and the outfielder is day-to-day.

And don't forget about Gardenhire's accidental ear injury on Saturday during batting practice that required surgery in the clubhouse, or Joe Mauer's sore knee that continues to keep him out the lineup.

"You don't want to miss too much time," Thome said. "Baseball is baseball. It's about rhythm. It's about being out there and getting your at-bats. And as we hitters call it, you want to see the ball well. When you are seeing the ball well, you certainly don't want anything to happen.

"Gardy's done a good job. But you also need this next week to get ready to play for the postseason. That's the key. You kind of want to keep that same intensity."

Worth noting

In the fifth inning on Saturday, reliever Glen Perkins beaned Brandon Inge on his first pitch after entering the game. Home-plate umpire Bob Davidson issued a warning to both benches, as Jason Repko was hit in the top of the inning. But manager Ron Gardenhire said Perkins' pitch wasn't intentional at all, especially as he's trying to pitch well enough to earn a spot in on the 25-man playoff roster. "Perkins didn't even know that Repko got hit. I guess everybody thought that he was going to drill Inge because we got hit, but Perkins had no clue. He just yanked a fastball." ... Denard Span went 4-for-7 against the Tigers on Saturday, which marked his 21st career multi-hit game against Detroit, and his seventh with four or more hits. In 48 games against the Tigers, he's hit safely in 35 of them and owns a .372 average (73-for-196) against Detroit. Span was out of the lineup on Sunday with a sore leg.