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6/21/2014 1:47 P.M. ET

Workhorse Willingham out of Twins' lineup

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left Josh Willingham out of the lineup on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.

The 35-year-old right fielder has been a workhorse since returning from the disabled list on May 26. He's played in every game since then, and his most recent day off was June 12, when the team flew to Detroit.

"It's been three or four days we've talked about trying to give him a blow," Gardenhire said. "He needs a blow.

"He's been playing great defense and swinging well for us. But you have to remember: He's not the youngest guy in the world. He needs a break every once in a while."

Willingham hasn't been very productive in recent games. He's just 2-for-18 since the beginning of the Boston series on Monday. He also let a ball bounce off his glove for a triple against the White Sox on Friday night, a play that helped Chicago rally to tie the game in the ninth inning.

But Gardenhire said the day off is not related to Willingham's play.

"He's pretty excited about it, to tell you the truth," Gardenhire said. "We have to be guarded with him. We've played a lot of baseball, and I don't want to beat him up too much. He's healthy. We want to keep it that way."

Morales makes first start at first base with Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kendrys Morales made his first start of the season at first base on Saturday against the White Sox with Joe Mauer getting a break and starting at designated hitter.

Morales had started his first 11 games of the year at designated hitter before making his first start at first base since Sept. 15 of last season.

"He's fine," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's played a lot of first base. He can pick it. He's always been able to move around. He was excited. He had a smile from ear to ear when I told him he was going to play first base."

Morales started at DH 121 times last season with 31 starts at first base. He's expected to be mixed in at first base here and there moving forward, and Morales said he's ready for whatever Gardenhire wants from him.

"I've been taking ground balls every day," Morales said. "It can be a little hard to DH every day and then play first base once a week or every 10 days. But I'm ready. I know Mauer is the first baseman, but I'm ready."

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.