CHICAGO -- Josh Willingham is back with the Twins, and there's a good chance he could be seeing plenty of at-bats right away.
After being on the disabled list since July 2, retroactive to July 1, Willingham was activated before the first game of Friday's doubleheader against the White Sox, batting third as the designated hitter. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he'd have to wait and see if Willingham would play the second game as well, but he figures to provide a boost for the Twins in their four games in three days.
The 34-year-old outfielder missed Minnesota's last 33 games after undergoing surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.
"Once we figured out sort of what the problem was and I realized I couldn't play with it anymore effectively, I think we all agreed it was time to get it cleaned out and start fresh," Willingham said.
Willingham played in a three-game rehab assignment for Triple-A Rochester, going 1-for-9 with a homer and two walks.
"It'll be good. He didn't get many at-bats down there, but it looked like everything was going well," Gardenhire said. "He was running around decent, hit a homer. We'll see how it goes today. First day back, doubleheader, we'll see how he handles that."
Willingham did play in the field with Rochester.
"He was able to run around with that brace on," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He said he feels great, it took a lot of the pressure off the knee, a lot of the stress off. He was scheduled to play a full game yesterday, but we brought him in because of this situation. He said he feels good, ready to go."
Twins put Doumit on DL, activate Willingham
CHICAGO -- With a nod to the increased and ongoing awareness of concussions in baseball and the Twins' organization, Minnesota placed catcher Ryan Doumit on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Friday morning.
As expected, the Twins returned Josh Willingham from his rehab assignment a day early to assume Doumit's spot on the active roster.
Doumit left Wednesday's loss to the Royals with concussion-like symptoms, saying he initially sustained the injury when he took a foul tip off his mask in the ninth inning of Sunday's game against the Astros. A number of factors -- including how he felt on the plane ride to Kansas City, and the long-term implication of the injury -- led to the decision.
"It's something, as we've talked about, that everybody understands a little bit more about now and they're taking the right steps to make sure we protect these guys, because for however long this game's been played, concussions weren't really talked about a whole heck of a lot," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And now it's one of those things baseball's learned a whole lot more about and is still learning about, and we're trying to protect these players, as is every sport."
The move is retroactive to Thursday. Doumit told Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony that he had no issues on the flight to Chicago, and he told reporters Friday that he felt fine. He'll take a few days off from baseball activities, and Antony said early indications are that Doumit should be back when the seven-day period expires.
"I understand the seriousness of concussions," Doumit said. "It's a necessary evil, the seven days, nobody wants to go on the disabled list. If I had it my way, I wouldn't want to go. But I understand the process. After seven days, I should be fine."
Tigers catcher Alex Avila was tested for a concussion after taking a foul ball in the mask on Thursday night, but was cleared to join the team in New York. Indians catcher Carlos Santana had the same issue last year, and Royals catcher Salvador Perez is on the seven-day DL right now.
"It's just the hazard of that position," Antony said, adding it's the catcher's preference to what kind of mask they wear. "You're going to get foul tips and you're going to get your bell rung on those sometimes."
Doumit said he's taken "hundreds" of balls off his mask over the course of his career and has felt dinged up many times. He said he went on the DL with a concussion in 2010, which came after a few foul tips and home-plate collisions added up.
The same season Doumit missed time on the DL with a concussion, teammate Justin Morneau was injured in a July 7 collision against the Blue Jays and didn't play the rest of the year because of concussion-like symptoms. And years before that, Gardenhire said, it wasn't uncommon for players to play through them.
"I got knocked out three times in games and played," Gardenhire said. "I finished a game, I got knocked out at home plate and played. They told me I had a concussion, and I said, 'OK,' and I played. The doctor met me at home plate and I played the rest of the game. I didn't have a choice. That's just the way that it was. We played."
• The Twins were off on Thursday and spent the day in Chicago, but they still said it was a bit odd to start a series with a Friday day game, as part of the split doubleheader.
"I don't remember ever doing this on a Friday, to tell you the truth," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's the day they set up radio talk shows. I do those on Fridays. We don't usually do baseball on Fridays. But back in the day, we used to have doubleheaders -- you get rained out, you play a doubleheader -- normally it would start out 4, 5 o'clock, and you play a regular doubleheader. These split doubleheaders are long days. I understand there's a lot of money involved for the gate, but it sure does make for a long day for everybody involved. ... It's a lot of baseball, and if you like that sort of thing, you're in the right place."
• With Ryan Doumit being placed on the DL, assistant general manager Rob Antony noted that the team has always kept close tabs on fellow catcher Joe Mauer over the years about the issue of concussions.
"They do baseline testing so that when something happens, if you're concerned about it at all, you can test it and see if it matches up to his baseline," Antony said. "If he does, then you're pretty confident you don't have a situation. But again, you have to rely on the player to come to you and say, 'That foul tip got me pretty good.' But to my knowledge, Joe's never said anything to the point where, 'I'm a little concerned.' And I think he would. He's a bright guy. All these guys should be looking out for themselves, and that's what we ask from all our players."