UPDATE: Josh Willingham took batting practice for the first time since undergoing surgery on his left knee Tuesday, lining several balls to center and left-center, and said he felt good. In fact, Willingham said his tentative plan is to take batting practice for the next five days, then go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues. If all goes well, Willingham said, it's possible he could report to the team in Chicago when that series starts Aug. 2.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said that timetable might be a little optimistic; Willingham still has lots of running, both in the outfield and on the bases, to do before the Twins are sure his knee is up to the pounding of a ballgame. And a rehab stint would include a couple of games at designated hitter, then five-, seven- and nine-inning stints as an outfielder, Gardenhire said. Still, it's a good sign for a Twins lineup that desperately needs another power hitter.
Justin Morneau would be willing to take part in the Home Run Derby next year, if he's here. Those last three words mean a little more this week than usual.
Morneau helped the Twins kick off their yearlong buildup to the 2014 All-Star Game on Tuesday, then admitted he's just awaiting word about his future, just like Twins fans are. The deadline for making trades without waivers arrives at 3 p.m. CT tomorrow, and Morneau said he's hoping to still be a Twin at 3:01. "This year is a little different, just because I'm so close" to the expiration of his six-year contract, the four-time All-Star said. "There's not much I can do about it but wait."
There's 11 months of waiting until the All-Star Game comes to Target Field, and the Twins unveiled the logo for next year's game in an on-field ceremony with Morneau, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins this afternoon. The logo invokes Minneapolis' skyline and the Target Field canopy -- though it's been pointed out that the canopy is backwards in relation to the skyline, and the buildings are generic -- and will be plastered around town over the next 11 months. The Twins will wear it as a patch on their uniform sleeves next year, and the logo has already been painted on the right-field wall. It will be unveiled a second time tonight at 6:48, once the ballpark fills with fans for tonight's 7:10 game with the Royals.
Morneau, who won the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2009, said that event means a lot to the players who participate, too. "People forget, that's a dream for a lot of kids growing up, too," he said. He'd do an encore in Target Field, he said, if asked.
As if that wasn't enough news, it was all upstaged by a couple of week-old girls. Mauer met with the media for the first time since his twin daughters' birth described his hectic drive to the hospital where his twin girls were born early Wednesday morning. Mauer charted a jet to carry him home from Anaheim, arriving in the Twin Cities around 3 a.m. His mother picked him up and drove rather quickly to the hospital -- just in time. "I talked to [his wife] Maddie for about five minutes, and then it happened," Mauer said about the birth.
The baby girls -- he didn't know their gender until the birth -- weighed just 4 lbs., 15 ounces apiece, and were 18 inches long, born a few weeks premature. They remain in the hospital almost a week later as a precaution, though both are healthy and doing fine. "I guess you know where I'll be after the game," Mauer said.
As for the game, the Twins will play just their eighth home game of the month tonight, their first of six in the next nine games against the Royals, who are 8-2 since the All-Star break. The Twins are without Brian Dozier, whose back and knee are still sore after an awkward lunge for second base during the series in Seattle. Here are tonight's lineups, complete with Minnesota's new leadoff hitter, Clete Thomas: