KANSAS CITY -- Arrived at Kauffman Stadium today to see Joe Mauer and Jim Thome taking early batting practice, while Francisco Liriano had a session in the bullpen.

That might be more important than anything that actually happens in tonight’s game. Kevin Slowey is pitching for a spot on the postseason pitching staff, making his final scheduled start.

The Twins named outfielder Joe Benson and righthander Kyle Gibson their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year today. La Velle has more on that here.

Quick aside

I’m fired up about my rental car here in KC, a silver Ford Flex that the woman at the counter gave me apologetically because they were out of compacts. “Oh, I suppose,” I said. It has GPS with a touch-screen this and that. Arrived here mid-morning and took the scenic route to my hotel. Stopped at Half-Price Books and found a used copy of the Old 97’s “Too Far to Care.” Heard a song called “Melt Show” that reminded me about baseball.

“Is this more than some old summer fling?
This thing we have, will it mean anything?
When October rolls around, will you sober up and let me down?
Will you, sober up and let me down?”

Update: J.J. Hardy returned to Minnesota to get his knee examined. Gardenhire said Hardy’s knee feels better today, and Sunday’s MRI exam showed no structural damage, so it still doesn’t sound like anything too serious, but the Twins want to get to the bottom of it. Since Hardy wasn’t going to play in KC, the team figured he should get it checked out and use the Target Field facilities (hot and cold tub, etc.) to speed up the rehab.

The same goes for Thome. His BP session was OK today, but his back was still stiff. So the tentative plan is for him to return to Minnesota on Tuesday.

Joe Mauer probably won’t play in Kansas City, but there’s a chance he’ll be ready by Wednesday. Unlike Hardy and Thome, Mauer will be taking BP with the rest of the team during this series.

The real alarm bells will sound if Mauer, Thome and Hardy aren’t in the lineup Thursday at home. So stay tuned.

TWINS (92-63)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
3. Delmon Young, LF
4. Jason Kubel, RF
5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
6. Danny Valencia, DH
7. Matt Tolbert, 3B
8. Drew Butera, C
9. Alexi Casilla, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.18 ERA)

ROYALS (63-92)

1. Jarrod Dyson, CF
2. Mike Aviles, 2B
3. Billy Butler, DH
4. Kila Ka’aihue, 1B
5. Josh Fields, 3B
6. Alex Gordon, LF
7. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
8. Lucas May, C
9. Jai Miller, RF

Starting pitcher: RH Kyle Davies (8-11, 5.05 ERA)

Kauffman Stadium. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

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