PHOENIX -- Twins designated hitter Jim Thome has been out all month with a left oblique strain, but there may be light. Thome is set to rejoin the team when it returns home from a seven-game western swing on Monday to face the Mariners, manager Ron Gardenhire said on Friday.Thome will continue to work out in Florida at extended spring training while the Twins play an Interleague series this weekend against the D-backs at Chase Field. Under Major League rules, the Twins can't utilize the designated hitter in National League cities, so it negates Thome's presence here anyway. He hasn't played since May 1, and was placed on the disabled list two days later. "Thome's going to meet us back home," Gardenhire said hours before the Twins opened the three-game series. "He still needs the at-bats. He feels good. He's healthy. His timing is still not where he wants it to be. He'll probably get five or six more at-bats tomorrow. That's what he needs. And Sunday he'll probably fly to Minnesota. He can get more done there than coming all the way out here and pinch-hitting once a game." Thome, 40, was batting .214 with two homers and seven RBIs in 20 games before sustaining the injury. With 591 homers, he's only nine away from becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach 600.
Killebrew funeral educational for Twins players
PHOENIX -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Friday's funeral service for Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew was a learning experience for his players.As fate would have it, the Twins were in town for a three-game Interleague series against the D-backs, beginning at Chase Field on Friday night. They flew here, arriving on Thursday after pounding the A's in an afternoon game in Oakland. This is only the second time the Twins have played at Chase since Interleague Play began in 1997. The other time was 2006. Killebrew, 74, passed away this past Tuesday in nearby Scottsdale after succumbing to esophageal cancer. The service was on a church campus in Peoria, which is northwest of downtown Phoenix. "As sad as the whole situation was of us losing Harmon, I think it was in the stars that we were able to be here and attend the funeral," Gardenhire said a few hours prior to the game. "My players have handled this very, very well. There have been a lot of questions, and a lot of talk, and the players have stood up and been very accountable. That's been very cool. They've done a super job." Killebrew had a major impact on the Twins' organization and he will be sorely missed. "In Spring Training, he was there for a week to 10 days before he got sick," Gardenhire said. "Just having him around and on the field, talking to [Justin] Morneau and [Michael] Cuddyer about how to handle yourself. Not only talking about it, but doing it. How much time he gave to the fans. He didn't leave too many disappointed fans. He took care of just about everybody. "The service was well done. The people who spoke, from the family to the friends, were elegant describing what we all know about Harmon and that's how much of a gentleman he was. How he treated people. I thought it was really cool. I thought it was cool for our baseball team to be there, listen to people who have known Harmon a lot longer than most of them, and hear the same things we've known by being around him."
Mauer working out, still battling soreness
PHOENIX -- Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer continues to work out in Florida, but no date is fixed yet for his return. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said on Friday night that Mauer is still feeling a low level of pain.He's been on the disabled list since April 13 with what the team is calling bilateral weakness in his legs. Mauer hurt his left knee late last season and underwent offseason arthroscopic surgery. "He's back on the field. I was talking to our field coordinator, and he had a full workout today," Gardenhire said. "He was running the bases, taking batting practice. But he's still fighting general soreness. That's getting back to the baseball activities. He hasn't been doing that for that many days yet. The light stuff he's done in Minnesota, most of that has been in the gym. This is taking the pounding back on the field." Gardenhire added that the soreness must dissipate before Mauer starts getting into some games, which means the Twins probably can't expect to see him before the All-Star break. Certainly, he'll have to embark on a Minor League rehab stint before being reactivated in the Majors. "I'm not sure how far off that is," Gardenhire said. "It just depends on how he feels."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.