7/23/2014 12:23 A.M. ET
Willingham not interested in trade rumors
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins left fielder Josh Willingham has started to show signs that he's starting to come around offensively, and he said he's doing his best not to think about the trade rumors involving him leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.
Willingham hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning to lead the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Indians on Monday night, a day after driving in two runs in a loss to the Rays on Sunday.
Willingham is still hitting just .217 this season entering Tuesday, but he does have a .365 on-base percentage and a .422 slugging percentage. He has nine homers, five doubles and 28 RBIs in 52 games.
Willingham is in the final year of a three-year, $21 million deal signed before the 2012 season. He's never been traded during the season but has been part of offseason trades in 2008 and '10. But he's heard his name pop up in July trade rumors in the last few seasons, and said he just tries to tune it all out.
"I pay seriously zero attention to it," Willingham said. "What I do hear comes from teammates or my wife, but I really don't pay any attention to it."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's been seeing positive signs from Willingham in recent days, and believes he's coming out of his recent funk.
"We've been talking about it for a couple days, but he's just on the ball right now," Gardenhire said. "We think the bat head is starting to get to the right spot. Last night, on a little hanging slider, he deposited it, which was huge for us and for him. It helps his confidence. Hopefully we can build off that."
Gibson scratched with stiff back; Swarzak to start
MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Kyle Gibson was scratched from his scheduled start against the Indians on Wednesday with lower back stiffness, and fellow right-hander Anthony Swarzak will start in his place.
The announcement came after Minnesota's 8-2 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday night. Gibson tried to get loose on Tuesday, but he still felt back stiffness so he was ruled out for Wednesday's game. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he doesn't believe it'll require a trip to the 15-day disabled list for Gibson, who is day to day.
"It got a little tight during his bullpen and he got through it, but it locked up," Gardenhire said. "He's receiving treatment and we'll go day to day with him."
It will give Swarzak his 29th career start and his first since Oct. 2, 2012, against the Blue Jays. Swarzak has been used exclusively in long relief since then, posting a 3.38 ERA in 143 2/3 innings over the last two seasons.
Swarzak is 6-17 with a 5.79 ERA in 28 career starts and 8-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 133 career relief appearances.
"I'm very excited," said Swarzak, who didn't find out until after Tuesday's game. "I'm ready. I've been waiting for an opportunity to start. This is a necessity thing for the organization. They need a starter tomorrow and I didn't pitch tonight. I'll always take that ball and that's what I'll do tomorrow."
Dozier named Heart and Hustle Award winner
MINNEAPOLIS -- Second baseman Brian Dozier was named the Twins' 2014 Heart and Hustle Award winner, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association announced Tuesday.
The award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players. One player from each team is chosen by an alumni committee and a final winner will be announced after the season.
Dozier, 27, has been Minnesota's best all-around player this season. He's hitting .234/.333/.420 with a team-leading 18 homers and 16 stolen bases in 96 games, entering Tuesday. He also leads the American League with 71 runs scored.
"If you want a guy with heart and hustle, I'd say Dozier," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He makes one play a night that's spectacular and he did it again last night. He plays the game hard. We have a few guys like that."
Fans, alumni and active players will vote to select this year's overall winner. Previous winners include David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, '07), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Trout (2012) and Dustin Pedroia (2013).
The winner will be announced on Nov. 18 at the 15th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. This event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics. These clinics impact more than 15,000 children each year at 110 clinics, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball.
• Top prospect Byron Buxton was held out of the lineup at Class A Advanced Fort Myers for a fourth straight game on Tuesday after being hit on his right wrist by a pitch on Friday. Buxton, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball, had a precautionary X-ray exam taken on his wrist, which came back negative. The 20-year-old, who has dealt with injuries to his other wrist this season, remains day to day.
• Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 7 with a right elbow strain, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session this week at Target Field. There's still no timetable for his return, as the Twins are deciding whether he'll need to go on a rehab assignment before returning to action.