Joe Mauer was set to start on Tuesday against the Royals, a team he's batting .425 against this season and .355 (in 116 games) in his career.

But the All-Star catcher was hit with back spasms right before batting practice and was scratched from the starting lineup. Ryan Doumit replaced him behind the plate and Josh Willingham moved up into Mauer's customary No. 3 spot in the lineup.

"He was out here early, taking some throws at second base then got ready to hit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "His back tightened up on him and he had spasms and he's out."

Mauer said he was trying to get loose at the time but couldn't make it to the batting cage.

"It just locked up," Mauer said after the game.

Mauer hoped that treatment at the park -- and muscle relaxers -- will help him recover in time to play Wednesday. He's never had back spasms before, so he doesn't know what to expect.

"I'm in a lot of pain right now, but it's calmed down from earlier today," he said. "It's feeling a little bit better."

De Vries hurting

Righthander Cole De Vries on Monday had X-rays taken of his right side, where he's still experiencing discomfort after using that part of his body to catch a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera on Saturday.

"I went and got some X-rays last might to make sure they weren't cracked or anything," he said, "and everything came back fine."

The results were negative, but De Vries' next start could be affected.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said that there's still a chance that De Vries will start Friday.

De Vries is making a strong case to be part of the 2013 rotation. He's 5-5 overall with a 4.11 ERA but is 3-1, 1.54 in his past four outings.

"He's not a hard thrower, but he locates well," Ryan said. "It's a usable fastball, and he can really spin the ball. He also has a pretty good slider. And he has a changeup. He's got pitches."

Ryan was asked how De Vries, a former Eden Prairie and Gophers star, fits in the club's plans.

"There's not a lockdown situation with too many guys on our team," Ryan said. "He has put himself in a pretty good area. At least he's given us a chance to give him some consideration."

Span to return

Outfielder Denard Span sounded ready to come off the disabled list Wednesday and return to center field -- as well as the top of the Twins' batting order.

Span landed on the DL after trying to fight through a sprained SC joint. He's been taking batting practice and getting his other work in as he prepares to be activated.

Parmelee update

Chris Parmelee said his groin muscle strain is only minor, but the Twins did limit his activity Tuesday. Besides, Parmelee, who is hitting .245 with five homers and 17 RBI, has more important things to worry about.

His wife, Amanda, is about to give birth to the couple's first child. As soon as he gets the call, he's off to California.