MINNEAPOLIS -- The last time that Justin Morneau played in a game, it was against the Toronto Blue Jays. And when Morneau worked out on the field on Thursday, it came before the opener of the club's four-game series with the Blue Jays.

Morneau has not played since he suffered a concussion on July 7 in Toronto when he was accidentally kneed by Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald while trying to break up a double play. Since the Blue Jays were in town on Thursday, Morneau was asked after his workout if he had spoken to McDonald since the unfortunate collision took place.

"He called me the next day when we were in the clubhouse there and asked me how I was doing," Morneau said. "He apologized. I told him he didn't need to apologize, it was a baseball play. I was trying to take him out at second, it was just an unfortunate situation. He's obviously not trying to knee me in the head. It was just something that happened. I'm not going to go into second any differently and he's not going to try to turn double plays any differently."

Morneau said that since McDonald had watched teammate Aaron Hill struggle while trying to recover from a concussion, the Blue Jays infielder just wanted to make sure that Morneau didn't rush his recovery. Since that game, McDonald has checked with Corey Koskie, a former teammate of both players, for updates on Morneau's recovery.

"He's a great guy and I appreciated him calling," Morneau said. "I don't hold anything against him, that's for sure.

Mauer, Hardy return to Twins' lineup

MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the goals for the Twins heading into the first round of the playoffs next week is to get their players healthy, so it was a positive sign Thursday when two of them returned to the field.

Joe Mauer was back in the Twins' lineup for the first time since he injured his left knee on Sept. 19 and shortstop J.J. Hardy returned after missing four games due to some swelling in his left knee.

Mauer was the team's designated hitter and slotted in his usual third spot in the order. It had been 11 days since he was in the lineup, having hurt his knee during an at-bat in the sixth inning of a game against the A's at Target Field.

"Joe said he'd like to DH tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So we'll stick him in there and let him get some swings."

Hardy had not played since Saturday night after his left knee had inexplicably swelled up the following morning. An MRI on the knee didn't show any structural damage, but the Twins sent Hardy back to the Twin Cities on Monday to have his knee examined by doctors, who found nothing of concern.

By Tuesday, the swelling in Hardy's knee had disappeared, and in the first day that the team was back home, Gardenhire said Hardy told him that he wanted to get back on the field immediately to test his knee.

"His knee just swelled up and something caused it, so now we've got to see if he goes out there and plays whether it happens again," Gardenhire said. "That's why he wanted to get in there right away. But his knee feels good."

The expectation has been that Mauer will be behind the plate on Friday to catch Carl Pavano's start. It will be the first time Mauer has been scheduled to catch since injuring his knee, although he caught Pavano's bullpen session Wednesday in Kansas City.

Twins might not have Rauch for ALDS

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins reliever Jon Rauch will not be available to pitch in this weekend's series against the Blue Jays after he had his left knee drained of fluid Thursday afternoon and received a cortisone shot in the knee.

It has also put into question Rauch's availability for the American League Division Series.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Rauch has been receiving treatment on his knee, but that the right-hander had always been able to pitch with it. But after seeing the doctor on Thursday, Rauch went into Gardenhire's office and informed him of what had to be done to his knee, making him unable to pitch in any of the three remaining regular-season games.

"We'll have to determine whether he's even going to be fit for the playoff roster," Gardenhire said. "We just have to see that on the days off [before Game 1]. Another kind of a knock at us."

Rauch has gone 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 59 appearances this season.

The Twins have until Wednesday, when they'll host Game 1 of the ALDS against either the Rays or Yankees, to set their playoff roster.

Thome could return over weekend

MINNEAPOLIS -- Due to a knot on the left side of his back, Jim Thome has not played since Sept. 21, when the Twins clinched the American League Central title. But while Thome wasn't ready to swing with the team on Thursday, he could be back in the lineup in the next couple of days.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire revealed Thursday that Thome received a shot in his back and he was still feeling something there. But Gardenhire said after the club's 13-2 loss to the Blue Jays that Thome's back was feeling much better and it's a "good possibility" that the designated hitter will play this weekend.

"He wanted to take some swings, but the trainers recommended that he leave the bat alone," Gardenhire said. "He felt pretty good after this one. We'll see."

Thome, who is hitting .280 with 25 homers and 59 RBIs this season, has certainly played a big role in the Twins' lineup, particularly since Justin Morneau suffered a concussion July 7.

"We've all seen with Thome out and [Joe] Mauer out, we've all seen the power shortage in our lineup," Gardenhire said, "It's important for us to get those guys healthy.

Worth noting

On Thursday, Justin Morneau presented each of his teammates with a bottle of Crown Royal Black with a congratulatory message about the team's American League Central title. ... Left-hander Randy Flores is dealing with a bad back and was not available to pitch on Thursday. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Flores might be available to pitch on Friday.