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05/30/08 9:11 PM ET
Middle infielders on road to recovery
Tolbert, Everett, Punto hoping to return from their injuries soon
By Thor Nystrom / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' middle infield has been decimated by injuries and thrown into upheaval during the early part of the season. But at least Minnesota's three wounded up-the-middle infielders -- Matt Tolbert, Adam Everett and Nick Punto -- have recently received positive news. Tolbert had successful surgery on Thursday; he was operated by hand specialist Dr. Tom Varecka to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. Tolbert is scheduled to have the cast removed in the next week. He said the pain in his hand is decreasing daily, although it is still sore. Tolbert watched the Twins' recent road trip on television from his apartment. He said that there's no use in being frustrated by his current situation. "There is not much to do," Tolbert said. "I'm on the road to recovery. Everyone wants to be out there playing." Third-base coach Scott Ullger, who took over managing duties for Ron Gardenhire -- who missed Friday's game against the Yankees to attend his daughter's high school graduation -- spoke in glowing terms about Tolbert's work ethic. "Look at him, he's out there with his cast on," Ullger said before Friday's game from the dugout, nodding toward Tolbert, who was on the field with his teammates during batting practice and stretching exercises. "The other day, he had a left-hander's glove on, just shagging balls. You just love him for that. You pull for a guy like Tolbert. He's worked so hard to make himself better." Everett, meanwhile, received news on the Twins' recent road trip that an MRI on his right shoulder revealed a stress reaction in the glenoid bone. A stress reaction is a precursor to a stress facture. Everett also has inflammation in the surrounding tissue. The Twins are familiar with the injury. Brad Radke had a stress fracture in his glenoid bone in September 2006, and Joe Mauer had a stress reaction in his left leg in March 2007. Everett has been told that he should be ready to return in four to six weeks. The injury will not require surgery. The relief comes from being able to pinpoint the pain in his shoulder. Everett has uncharacteristically struggled on defense this season, and he specifically had problems throwing the ball. The exact source of the struggles, and the accompanying pain, had remained a mystery until the MRI results. Everett described knowing the specifics of his injury, which he had previously described as feeling like a knife in his shoulder, as a "big relief." "Now everybody knows I'm not faking it," Everett said. "It got excruciating. It got to where I didn't feel like I wanted to throw at all." Everett said he has been told by his physical therapist that once the injury goes away, there won't be any pain. "I'll heal from it, and be able to go on and throw like I normally throw and finish out the season," Everett said. "That's the good part." The shortstop will need rest. The plan is not to start a throwing program until his shoulder is pain-free. "I kept telling people I've never felt anything like this before," Everett said. "And it's true -- never felt anything like it. It's feeling much better." But it was Punto who received the best news of all. He is now a father. His wife, Natalie, gave birth to a girl, Nicole Jayne -- the couple's first child -- on Friday afternoon. The utility infielder, who had been rehabbing a strained left hamstring in Florida, will probably be activated from the disabled list and rejoin the team on Saturday.
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.