DETROIT -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was adamant on Tuesday that when Joe Mauer returns this season, it will be at catcher.
"He signed an eight-year deal to catch in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins," Gardenhire said. "So we're trying to get him back as a catcher. If it doesn't work out when he comes back, then we're going to have to figure somewhere else. And that's a lot harder than everybody makes it out to be, because we have some corner people that are pretty good baseball players.
"He could play anywhere. He played the infield as a young player. We can make him the tallest shortstop since Cal Ripken. Right now, he's a catcher, and that's where he's going to be until Joe says, 'I can't do it anymore,' or we deem him not physically able to do that. But we believe he is. He just needs to get healthy."
There is still no timetable for Mauer's return, but he has been seeing time at designated hitter in extended spring camp and will DH again on Thursday, after he works out and does catching and throwing drills on Wednesday.
"There is no top secret date," Gardenhire said. "There is no specific date to do anything other than day-to-day. Once he gets out there, the player will eventually tell us. We wrote a script on how to get him into position to play; once he starts playing, it's going to be a few innings here, a few innings there and gradually start building up to it."
Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, meanwhile, is closer to returning from his broken left fibula and will play seven innings in the field in his next extended game at extended camp.
Left-hander Glen Perkins (strained right oblique) threw from 120 feet and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday or Thursday. Right-handers Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) and Joe Nathan (right flexor muscle strain) have been working out but have yet to throw.
Morneau hits two homers despite pinched nerve
DETROIT -- Twins first baseman Justin Morneau admitted Tuesday he's been dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck that's also causing weakness in his left shoulder, and the injury will likely linger the whole season.
Morneau, who has missed just five games this season despite the injury, received two cortisone shots in his neck and met with doctors, who told him the pain is unlikely to go away.
But Morneau was able to put that aside on Tuesday, homering twice and scoring three runs in the Twins' 8-7 loss to the Tigers.
"He was driving the ball and put it in the seats a couple times," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need that, especially with [Jason] Kubel out. We need somebody to pick up the slack and he did that tonight."
Before the game, Morneau told reporters about his ailment and how it's something he's likely to play through this season.
"We got it checked it out, and there's not really a whole lot that can be done," said Morneau, who added that he's never dealt with this injury before this year. "We shot it twice, and it feels better today than it did a while ago. So the hope is that it'll continue to get better.
"It's not something they really want to do surgery on. They say typically the time to recover is about the same amount of time to recover from the surgery. So it's one of those things where it's playable, and as long as the pain is tolerable, we'll keep grinding it out. So that's kind of where we're at."
Gardenhire met with Morneau last week to see if a trip to the 15-day disabled list would help, but after Morneau met both with team doctors and his own personal doctor, they decided it wouldn't make a difference.
"Do you want to let it try to calm down for a couple weeks if it's just going to come back? Or do you work through it?" Gardenhire said. "That's kind of where we're at. I asked him that question, too, 'If it's the right thing for you to do, sit out for a couple weeks, back off and let this thing calm down, we'll do that.' I try to protect him as much as I can, but no one really thinks that's going to help much."
Morneau said he feels the malady both at the plate and in the field, but it's mostly hindered his ability to lift weights, as it's affected the strength in his left arm. He added that if the injury lasts into the offseason, they could explore other options, including surgery.
Morneau refused to blame the injury for this struggles this season, though. He's batting .247, with a .299 on-base percentage and .371 slugging percentage in 48 games with four homers, but he said it's affected him defensively with his range of motion and reaction time.
"Right now, it's playable, and I'm able to go out there," Morneau said. "Obviously, I'm not playing as well as I'd like, but whether it's because of this or not, who knows? It's one of those things, where I can play with it so I'll just keep going."
Kubel sidelined with left foot sprain
DETROIT -- Jason Kubel did not appear in the Twins' 8-7 loss on Tuesday after suffering a left foot sprain in the sixth inning of Monday's loss to the Tigers.
Kubel, who injured his foot while jumping near the right-field wall on Victor Martinez's two-run homer in the sixth inning, said his foot isn't swollen, and he doesn't expect to spend time on the disabled list.
"It's a lot better," said Kubel, who will wear a protective boot on Wednesday. "I woke up this morning and didn't feel anything until walking on it. But it feels better walking around. So as long as keeps up like that each day, it shouldn't be too much longer."
Twins trainer Dave Pruemer was similarly optimistic that Kubel won't be out long but didn't fully rule out a trip to the DL.
"Right now, he's day to day," Pruemer said. "He's pretty tender over the top of his foot. It has nothing to do with his ankle. We'll just see in the next day or two. If he responds well, we'll keep going with [no disabled list]. If not, then we'll make a decision."
Liriano expects to return from DL when eligible
DETROIT -- Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano, who was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation after Monday's game, said he's feeling much better and should be ready to pitch once he's eligible to return on June 7.
He said the soreness in his shoulder began in a bullpen session after his start against the Mariners on May 17, and that it progressively got worse. But he was relieved that an MRI showed inflammation in the back of his shoulder, and he plans on throwing a bullpen on Saturday in Kansas City.
"It's not that sore and feels better," Liriano said. "It's getting there, I think. It's still there a little bit. But it feels better than before. I don't want to keep fighting this all year."
Right-hander Anthony Slama was recalled in his place and was excited to rejoin the Twins' bullpen after making five appearances with the club last season.
"I was so happy when my manager in Triple-A told me yesterday," said Slama, who has a career 2.73 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 105 innings at Triple-A Rochester. "I'm ecstatic. This is where I want to be."
Slama made his season debut on Tuesday, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of left-hander Brian Duensing in an 8-7 loss.