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08/25/12 7:38 PM ET

Neck feeling better, Willingham back in lineup

ARLINGTON -- Josh Willingham started in left field and batted cleanup for the Twins in Saturday's game against the Rangers after missing the previous two games with a stiff neck.

He was a late scratch in Thursday's series opener after waking up with discomfort in his neck that morning. Unable to turn his head while he was hitting, Willingham was also out Friday.

"I just had a bad crick in my neck and it wouldn't let me turn around to hit, so I couldn't play," Willingham said. "It was feeling better [Friday] night. As long as I keep progressing, I should be out there."

One of eight players to hit 30 home runs this year, Willingham is batting .260 with 31 homers and 91 RBIs in 119 games. After hitting .283 with an American League-best 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in July, entering Saturday he was batting .205 with four homers and 12 RBIs in August.

Span not 100 percent, but will try to tough it out

ARLINGTON -- Denard Span returned to the Twins' lineup on Saturday after sitting out Friday's game against the Rangers, starting in center field and leading off.

He had two hits in Thursday's 10-6 loss to the Rangers after missing the previous nine games with a collarbone injury he suffered while sliding to catch a fly ball Aug. 12. Span has played in 106 of the team's 126 games, missing three games in May with a sore hamstring, but not landing on the DL since last June, when he was suffering from concussion-like symptoms.

"Honestly, I'm not even sure I'll be 100 percent for the rest of the season," Span said. "But I'm good enough to go out there and play and help my team. Going off how I feel, I'll be day to day, but playing every game is possible."

The left-handed-hitting Span, after facing a right-handed starter in Ryan Dempster on Saturday, should also start when Scott Feldman goes for the Rangers in Sunday's series finale. Span said that he wasn't sure if he'd be tentative trying to make another sliding grab, but manager Ron Gardenhire isn't concerned.

"Instincts take over when you're playing the game of baseball," Gardnehire said. "We don't ever see Denard dive, he always slides to the ball. That's the way he makes plays. I'd be more worried about him going up against the wall than I would him diving or sliding for the ball. The only reason he hurt his shoulder last time was that he slid on his knees, they stuck in the ground and he did a front flip -- a half-gainer that would not have scored any points at the Olympics."

Waldrop encouraged by effective relief outing

ARLINGTON -- Before Friday, the last time Kyle Waldrop pitched against the Rangers, it did not go well.

He gave up two hits, including a walk-off RBI double to Nelson Cruz, without retiring a batter in a 4-3, 10-inning loss on July 7, suffering his first big league loss before being optioned to Triple-A Rochester five days later.

Waldrop had a much better outing on Friday, giving up four hits and one run while striking out two and walking none in relief of starter Samuel Deduno. In doing so, he gave a Twins bullpen that had thrown 14 innings in the previous four games a night off.

"That's what I wanted to do," Waldrop said. "I felt more comfortable out there. I did a better job of attacking the hitters, going after them and getting ahead on guys. That's generally what I'd like to do a little bit better. Last time I was here, I picked around a little too much and wasn't attacking."

One of the four hits Waldrop surrendered on Friday was a one-out single to Adrian Beltre in the seventh inning as the Rangers' third baseman completed his second career cycle.

"I wasn't even thinking about the situation," Waldrop said. "He had gotten a few hits earlier, but I hadn't put two and two together. I was attacking him the same way. I made a decent pitch but he just put a good swing on it. That's what good hitters do."

Gibson makes first Triple-A start since surgery

ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Kyle Gibson made his first start for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September.

He gave up four runs -- all in the third inning -- on six hits in three innings, striking out five and walking none, while throwing 32 of his 47 pitches for strikes. He was expected to throw between 60 and 65 pitches, but was replaced by Deolis Guerrera in the fourth inning.

Gibson -- the Twins' sixth-best prospect and top pitching prospect, according to MLB.com -- posted a 2.49 ERA in 11 appearances, including nine starts, between stints with the Twins' Rookie League team and High Class A Fort Myers, striking out 23 and walking five in 21 2/3 innings. Minnesota's first-round pick in 2009, Gibson, 24, went 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA with Rochester in '11, striking out 91 and walking 27 in 95 1/3 innings over 18 starts.

Assistant general manager Rob Antony said that Gibson, a candidate to make his Major League debut next season, will move on to the Twins' Florida Instructional League in September before heading to the Arizona Fall League in October.

Worth noting

• Adrian Beltre went 4-for-4 while hitting for his second career cycle in an 8-0 win over the Twins on Friday, joining Fred Patek, Fred Lynn, Paul Molitor and Travis Hafner as the only players to hit for the cycle against the Twins, who have lost all five games they've allowed someone to hit for the cycle.

• After going 12-6 against the Rangers in 2010-11, the Twins have lost seven of eight to Texas this year.

• Ben Revere walked and stole second base in the first inning of Saturday's game against the Rangers, his 30th of the season, making him the fourth player in Twins history with at least 30 stolen bases in consecutive seasons. His 30 stolen bases are the third-most in the American League this year.

• Justin Morneau hit a solo homer off Ryan Dempster in the fourth inning Saturday against the Rangers, giving him 202. That broke a tie with Gary Gaetti for the sixth-most homers in Twins history.

ChristianCorona is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.