The Twins send their hottest pitcher to the mound tonight, as they open a four-game series with Tampa Bay. Carl Pavano is coming off back-to-back complete games, and a shutout in last start, Sunday against the Mets.

The Rays counter with 6-foot-9 righthander Jeff Niemann, whose is tied for fourth in the American League with a 2.72 ERA.

Both teams were anxious to flip the calendars to July. The Twins went 12-15 in June, while the Rays went 11-14. Both teams had been above .500 the first two months of the season.

The Twins are 25-14 at home, and Tampa Bay is an MLB best 25-13 on the road.

La Velle posted a minor-league update, including a note on Wilson Ramos returning to action for Class AAA Rochester.

Update: Kevin Slowey said his right ankle feels better than he thought it would. He's expected to make his next start, though Manager Ron Gardenhire said the Twins might juggle the rotation and use Monday's off day to give Slowey a little extra time.

Matt Tolbert injured his right middle finger trying to field a ball in the ninth inning Wednesday. Gardenhire said it's a possible DL situation. Tolbert is unavailable to hit tonight. It had looked like the Twins would send Danny Valencia to Rochester when J.J. Hardy is activated from the DL on Saturday, but Tolbert's injury might force him to the DL.

RAYS (45-32)

1. Ben Zobrist, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Matt Joyce, RF
6. John Jaso, C
7. Willy Aybar, DH
8. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
9. Jason Bartlett, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72 ERA)

TWINS (43-35)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, RF
6. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
7. Jim Thome, DH
8. Delmon Young, LF
9. Nick Punto, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33 ERA)

Target Field. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

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Baker takes the mound for rubber game against the Mets

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Hardy returns, Tolbert lands on DL and Twins stack their lineup