8/5/2014 10:26 P.M. ET
Schafer joins Twins, gets start in left field vs. Padres
By Rhett Bollinger and Alex Smith / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Outfielder Jordan Schafer, who was claimed on waivers by the Twins from the Braves on Sunday, officially joined the club on Tuesday at Target Field.
Schafer was thrown right into the fire, making the start in left field with Josh Willingham at designated hitter and Danny Santana in center field. Schafer went 1-for-2 in the Twins' 3-1 win.
"It's exciting," Schafer said. "I had a lot of fun in Atlanta. We had a great clubhouse there and a lot of guys I'm close with. But I think a change of scenery was needed and I'm extremely excited about being here and getting a chance to play."
Schafer, 27, was hitting .163/.256/.213 with four doubles, 15 stolen bases and two RBIs in 63 games with Atlanta this season before being designated for assignment on Friday. He's a career .222/.307/.304 hitter with 88 stolen bases in 110 attempts in parts of five seasons with the Braves and Astros.
Schafer, who hits from the left side and can play all three outfield spots, was once a top prospect in the Braves organization but has yet to translate his success at the plate in the Minor Leagues to the Majors.
"I feel defensively I'm extremely good and as far as stealing bases, I've been extremely successful, but to this point in my career I've underachieved at the plate," Schafer said. "There's been times where I've been very good but then I'll get knocked off by something, whether it's injury. So I'm hoping I can back on track here and be consistent."
He missed more than a month with a stress fracture in his right ankle late last season, and he saw his playing time diminish this year because of the crowded outfield in Atlanta. But the Twins are hoping he can find his swing in Minnesota now that he can get more playing time.
"We haven't seen much but we know he's a speed guy with some stolen bases in his career," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We just want to get him on the field. We're leaving Santana out there [in center] today, but ultimately this will give us a chance to get Santana in the infield a little bit and mix some people around."
Mauer, Nolasco make rehab outings at Cedar Rapids
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins first baseman Joe Mauer and right-hander Ricky Nolasco both began their rehab assignments with Class A Cedar Rapids on Tuesday.
Mauer, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique since July 3, went 1-for-3 as a designated hitter in his first rehab game. Mauer is expected to remain there through the weekend before rejoining the Twins next week for their three-game series against the Astros.
"He's been out a month so he's going to need four or five days," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I'm betting he's not going to play two and then fly to California. If I'm a betting man, I'm thinking Houston if everything goes well."
Nolasco, on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 7 with a right elbow strain, tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering two hits and a walk while striking out two. He threw 51 pitches with 30 going for strikes. He's scheduled to make one more rehab start on Sunday before rejoining the rotation.
With both Mauer and Nolasco in Cedar Rapids, it led to a sold-out crowd Tuesday night at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, which is roughly 280 miles from Minneapolis.
"That's a great ballpark, a great city for baseball," Gardenhire said. "We're getting our work in there, getting our guys and making sure they're OK. Plus, it's really good for that area and that community. They deserve it. They love baseball down there."
Vargas showing his power potential at plate
MINNEAPOLIS -- When manager Ron Gardenhire walked out to right field during pregame batting practice on Tuesday, he found rookie Kennys Vargas trying to shag fly balls with a bat.
"That was the first no-no," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "I didn't say anything to him, because I want him to enjoy himself. But eventually, we'll get the bat out of his hand. When you go to the outfield to shag, carry a glove. That does tell you a little bit about what he likes to do."
While Vargas might not have a passion for fielding, he's been flashing some skill in the batter's box. In three games against the White Sox this past weekend, he went 5-for-14 (.357) with four RBIs, including a 2-for-5, two-RBI performance in Sunday's finale.
Tuesday's game was his first professional game at Target Field -- if you don't count the Futures Game on July 13, when he went 1-for-4 with a double to right field. He continued to impress by belting the decisive three-run homer in the sixth, his first Major League home run, as the Twins won, 3-1.
"We'll see how he handles Major League pitching at this ballpark," Gardenhire said before the game. "He oughta have fun. It should play well for him. He told me, 'I think it carries really well here.'"
Those words aren't often uttered by hitters at pitcher-friendly Target Field.
"That's a first," Gardenhire said.
• The Twins have yet to name a starter for Saturday against the A's after left-hander Logan Darnell was optioned to make room for outfielder Jordan Schafer on Sunday. The top two options at Triple-A Rochester are right-hander Trevor May and left-hander Tommy Milone.
May would be on normal rest, as he started Monday and gave up four runs over six innings against Triple-A Louisville. Milone, who was acquired from the A's on Thursday in the trade that sent Sam Fuld to Oakland, made his Rochester debut Tuesday, allowing just one run over seven innings, but would be pitching on short rest on Saturday.
• Center fielder Aaron Hicks was promoted from Double-A New Britain to Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday. Hicks, 24, hit .297/.404/.466 with four homers, 11 doubles and two stolen bases in 43 games with New Britain. He could rejoin the Twins as a September callup if he continues to hit well at Rochester.
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.