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09/29/10 9:19 PM ET

Morneau ready to work out with Twins

KANSAS CITY -- First baseman Justin Morneau, who has been on the disabled list since July 16 with a concussion, will work out with the Twins prior to Thursday's game against Toronto.

"Morneau is doing really well," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had another good day [Wednesday]. That's about four really good days in a row. "

Gardenhire said Morneau will take batting practice and ground balls. But Gardenhire cautioned the media not to read anything more into it other than Morneau is making progress. Any talk of Morneau returning for some portion of the playoffs would be premature at this juncture, according to Gardenhire.

"Everybody knows it would be great if this guy could help us one way or another," Gardenhire said. "But he's been out a long time. It's exciting that he's actually feeling good. That's all we wanted. It's not about the baseball part of it. Let's get him out on the baseball field and go from there. No expectations. There's no sense in going any farther than that."

Mauer plans to return as DH on Thursday

KANSAS CITY -- Joe Mauer's return to the Twins' lineup will come at Target Field.

Mauer worked out Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium and caught Carl Pavano's bullpen session before the Twins finished their regular-season road schedule in Kansas City. Minnesota is holding off on Mauer playing again until the Twins open a four-game series Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said the scenario being discussed on Wednesday would have Mauer returning as the designated hitter on Thursday and then catching Pavano on Friday. If Mauer is the Thursday DH, it would push Jim Thome back to Friday for DH duties. Thome has been receiving treatment for a sore left lower back.

Mauer has been recovering from a jammed right knee injury which he suffered on Sept. 19. An MRI showed only inflammation of tissue in the knee.

"He's getting close," Gardenhire said. "Get home and get some action."

Gardenhire didn't express concerns about a rust issue with Mauer leading up to next week's playoffs.

"The baseball part of it, I always see Joe as being fine," Gardenhire said.

Along with Mauer and Thome, shortstop J.J. Hardy is expected to work his way back into the lineup over the weekend. Gardenhire said Hardy will take swings Thursday, and the club will go from there regarding his availability. Hardy woke up last Sunday with swelling in his left knee, but the swelling is gone.

Gardenhire lauds trio of Twins stars

KANSAS CITY -- If Ron Gardenhire had his druthers, the Twins would have a tri-MVP award this year, with Delmon Young, Joe Mauer and Mike Cuddyer all having their name on it.

Gardenhire lauded the contributions of all three players for their roles in helping the Twins run away with the American League Central title.

Young went into Wednesday's game against the Royals hitting .299 with 19 homers and 108 RBIs. Cuddyer has changed positions according to team needs and still managed to hit .272 with 14 homers and 80 RBIs entering Wednesday. Mauer has hit .331 in 499 at-bats while handling the pitching staff.

"If you go by the [overall] numbers, it's Delmon," Gardenhire said. "If you go by the guy who has moved around, it's Cuddyer. He's done just about everything we've asked. If you go by the guy who leads the team in hitting, it would be Mauer.

"It just depends on how you want to break it down."

Thome can offer veteran advice on playoffs

KANSAS CITY -- If any of the young Twins want advice on how to handle the playoff experience, they can always call on Jim Thome.

Thome, who played in the 1995 and '97 World Series for Cleveland, used to absorb knowledge on that subject from veterans like Eddie Murray and Orel Hershiser.

"Those guys succeeded in postseason very well," Thome said. "The key is that you have to control your adrenaline as you go through big steps or big stages. You have to have the intensity, but understand you have teammates who can pick you up.

"Everybody wants to get the big hit or make the big pitch. But we're all in this together and you want to have that mind-set. If you are thinking that way, it tends to take a little of the pressure off."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.