DETROIT -- Joe Mauer is scheduled to take a significant step forward in his recovery from weakness in his legs and right shoulder on Thursday, as he's scheduled to catch three innings in an extended spring training game in Fort Myers, Fla.

It marks the first time Mauer will get behind the plate in a game setting since catching 10 innings against the Royals on April 12, as he's only served as designated hitter in extended spring training since being placed on the disabled list. He's also expected to get four at-bats on Thursday, and will increase his innings at catcher as he moves forward.

"We'll see how everything goes there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He'll get some at-bats and catch a ballgame and block some balls -- the whole package. And we'll steadily move forward and get him playing a full nine innings, and we'll go from there."

Gardenhire said there is still no official timetable for Mauer's return, but that he'll need to prove he can catch a full nine innings on a regular basis before he rejoins the Twins.

"He has to be healthy, and that means going about his business like he usually does," Gardenhire said. "Once he's healthy and has played enough games where everything is going along good, then we bring him up here. But it makes no sense to bring him back after a couple days. That's why it's been a long process."

Twins trainer Dave Pruemer added Mauer has been on a regular throwing program and has been catching bullpens to get ready for his first appearance behind the plate.

"He's been doing all his field work down there and he's ready to go," Pruemer said. "So, we'll progress from there."

Thome exits game with mild left quad strain

DETROIT -- Designated hitter Jim Thome left Wednesday's game against the Tigers with a mild left quad strain and is day to day.

The Twins announced after the game that either Thome or Jason Kubel, who has been bothered by a sprained left foot he injured on Monday, will be placed on the disabled list on Thursday, with outfielder Ben Revere getting called up from Triple-A Rochester.

"We'll have to make a decision on who goes on the DL," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Somebody has to go on the DL. We can't have two players down and go day to day with everybody."

Thome said he injured his quad while swinging the bat in the fourth inning before he walked with two outs. He also ran the bases after the walk, as he advanced to second on a Danny Valencia single and ran to third when Delmon Young was robbed of a hit on a diving catch by Brennan Boesch in right field to end the inning.

"I did it on my swing," Thome said. "Apparently I have a small strain in my quad, so we'll see how I feel tomorrow. But I did feel it running."

Thome was lifted in the sixth inning for pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe, who grounded into a fielder's choice with two runners on and one out. Plouffe came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, but Al Alburquerque struck him out looking to end the inning.

Revere was hitting .299 with eight stolen bases for Triple-A Rochester. He's also played in 15 games with the Twins this year, batting .242 with two stolen bases.

Kubel out again, could be headed to DL

DETROIT -- Jason Kubel was held out of the lineup for a second straight day with a sprained left foot on Wednesday, and could be headed to the disabled list on Thursday.

The Twins will decide whether Kubel or designated hitter Jim Thome, who left Wednesday's game against the Tigers with a mild left quad strain, will be placed on the disabled list on Thursday. Outfielder Ben Revere will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester.

"I'm hoping [to avoid the DL]," Kubel said after Wednesday's 4-2 loss. "But we're running low here. If I can't do anything, we have to do what we have to do."

Kubel originally injured his foot on Monday while jumping near the right-field wall on a two-run homer from Victor Martinez in the sixth inning of Minnesota's eventual loss.

Nishioka continues to make progress in rehab

DETROIT -- Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka played seven innings in an extended spring training game on Wednesday, and is slated to play seven more innings on Thursday, as he continues to make progress in his recovery from a broken left fibula.

"He's not having any issues," Twins trainer Dave Pruemer said. "He's playing well and feeling well."

Pruemer also gave updates on the rest of the Twins' injured players, including left-hander Glen Perkins, who threw off a mound for the first time since being placed on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.

Fellow left-hander Francisco Liriano is also expected to play catch on Thursday before throwing a bullpen on Saturday to try to get ready to return to action and start on Tuesday.

Right-handers Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) and Joe Nathan (right flexor muscle strain) are also rehabbing but have yet to begin throwing.

Gardenhire won't tell catchers to avoid contact

DETROIT -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had plenty to say Wednesday about A's general manager Billy Beane's directive to catcher Kurt Suzuki to avoid collisions at home plate.

Gardenhire, who was a teammate of Beane's with the Mets from 1984-85, said he won't be issuing similar advice to his backstops.

"I understand what Billy is saying -- I don't want my catcher getting murdered in there, and we say that about everybody -- but [stuff] happens in this game and you have to live with it," Gardenhire said.

"If there's contact, there's contact. It's baseball. It's sports. People get paid really good money to get the job done, and that's the way it goes."

The issue has been a hot topic in baseball after a home-plate collision ended Giants catcher Buster Posey's season, but Gardenhire said he's also against MLB changing rules regarding running into a catcher at home plate.

"If you tell a person you can't run over a catcher and then the runner goes in there and blows his knee out trying not to hit a catcher, then what do you say?" Gardenhire said. "I'm a believer that if you tell guys to change the way they were brought up and change the way the game is played, people get hurt."