5/29/2014 12:17 P.M. ET
Stiff back keeps Hicks out of starting lineup
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Center fielder Aaron Hicks was held out of the lineup against the Rangers on Thursday after being a late scratch on Wednesday with lower back stiffness.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it was for precautionary reasons, as Hicks felt like he could play, but Gardenhire decided to start rookie Danny Santana instead.
"Hicks is better today and available," Gardenhire said. "He came in and told me he could play, but I was leery of starting him in case his back started to act up. So we'll start Santana out there."
Hicks said his back started to stiffen up on the lower left side while taking batting practice on Wednesday. He said he thinks all the extra work on hitting from the right side now that he dropped switch-hitting might've caused the back stiffness.
But Hicks said the anti-inflammatories he took on Wednesday helped and that he was available to pinch-hit, if needed.
"It's feeling a little bit better," Hicks said. "I'll be available. They gave me some medicine for the inflammation, and it's made it better."
With Hicks out, Santana made his fourth career start in center field. Gardenhire said the natural shortstop is still adjusting to playing center field but has done OK filling in for Hicks in center field.
"He's all right," Gardenhire said. "We all see he has plenty of range. But he has trouble with those rockets hit over his head. He'll have to adjust to that. But he covers left to right really well."
Fuld trying to shake concussion symptoms
MINNEAPOLIS -- Outfielder Sam Fuld was scheduled to fly back to Minnesota on Thursday after meeting with concussion specialist Dr. Mickey Collins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Fuld is on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion and hasn't played since May 7. He met with Dr. Collins to get a second opinion from a specialist, because he's yet to have three days in a row without concussion-like symptoms.
But the initial reports were positive, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony, who heard from head trainer Dave Preumer.
"Pruemer talked to the doc yesterday, who said he'd call today if there was anything to the last tests, but he said he was encouraged," Antony said. "He's through most of [the symptoms]. Hopefully it won't be too long."
Antony added the Fuld is expected to do some workouts once he returns to the Twin Cities, but he still wasn't cleared for baseball activities.
"Fuld is flying back today and is going to work out today," Antony said. "But he still needs three good days [before baseball activity]. The biggest thing was getting some peace of mind. There was nothing major or anything like that. It's a situation where he doesn't have to be too concerned."
Gardenhire sees Mauer hitting ball hard
MINNEAPOLIS -- There's no way around it: Joe Mauer is having a down year statistically.
With his average at an all-time low through 45 games (.277) and a particular inability to knock in runners in scoring position (.194 in 36 at-bats), he has not been able to ignite the Twin's offense from the No. 2 spot in the order.
The six-time All-Star had an opportunity to tie the game with Eduardo Escobar on third base in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's 1-0 loss to the Rangers, but Mauer struck out swinging for the final out, which elicited a chorus of boos from the Minnesota faithful.
"Fans are frustrated," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They show it. It's always been part of the game. I think for Joe, he hears it, believe me.
-- Alex Smith
"I just hope that he doesn't put more pressure on himself. I want him to just keep swinging, and he'll be fine."
Both Gardenhire and Mauer are chalking up the first baseman's struggles to bad luck and opposing teams' outfield shifts.
"I'm feeling pretty good actually, which is even more frustrating because I've been hitting a lot of balls hard and just not having much to show for it," Mauer said. "Hopefully that turns here soon, and I keep having some good at-bats and hopefully they start falling."
Mauer's line-drive percentage (28.6 percent) is at an all-time high, but so is his ground ball/fly ball ratio (3.00).
"I don't know if you start counting all the balls that this guy hits on the button," Gardenhire said. "I can promise you it's as many as anybody in the league. He hits it on the barrel of the bat.
"I think it's an eye-opener when we say, 'Joe Mauer is struggling a little bit.' It's an eye-opener for everybody, because you're just not used to seeing that or hearing that. It's really hard to fathom for him, because he's such a good hitter."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Alex Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.