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Twins left fielder Josh Willingham

J. Pat Carter, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Willingham scheduled for MRI

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • July 2, 2013 - 12:31 AM

It has been two weeks since Ron Gardenhire kept Josh Willingham out of the lineup for two games, saying the outfielder’s left knee had been bothering him. Since then, Willingham has had a cortisone shot, tried a couple of more days off, limited himself to designated hitter duty, and mostly tried to play through the pain.

Monday, he couldn’t do that anymore, either. The Twins slugger, scheduled to bat cleanup as the designated hitter, was pulled from the lineup only minutes before the game when the pain returned while he warmed up. He will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam Tuesday morning, in hopes of finding answers to a problem that has plagued him for nearly a month, and after the 10-4 loss to the Yankees, Gardenhire implied that Willingham was headed for the disabled list.

“It hasn’t got any better, might have even got a touch worse, I don’t know,” said Willingham, who reaggravated the injury chasing a fly ball Friday. “I thought [a cortisone shot] helped there for a while, but then I tweaked it again, and it hasn’t gotten better.”

With Wilkin Ramirez, Darin Mastroianni and Aaron Hicks on the DL and Ryan Doumit limited to catching because of leg problems of his own, the Twins have no extra outfielders on the roster. “We need another player now. We can’t continue to play like that with two guys on the bench,” Gardenhire said. “That one kind of came out of nowhere. I thought [Willingham] was doing pretty good.”

So did Willingham. He had hoped sitting out Sunday, except for a pinch-hitting appearance, would allow the pain to subside.

“Today I didn’t run during batting practice, and I thought I felt OK,” Wilingham said. “I went to run before the game, and it wasn’t happening.”

He wasn’t the only cornerstone out of the lineup. Joe Mauer came in “under the weather,” Gardenhire said. Mauer did pinch hit in the eighth inning, striking out to stay hitless this homestand.

Pelfrey strong in rehab

Mike Pelfrey made the Twins’ decision an easy one, demonstrating that his sore back is fine again. He pitched six innings for Class A Cedar Rapids, giving up two runs and two hits and throwing 51 strikes among his 70 pitches.

Pelfrey, who hasn’t won a major league game since May 5, will return to the Twins rotation Saturday at Toronto, Gardenhire said.

“I felt good. The first time seeing hitters in 10-12 days, it can be a little different, a little weird at first. It definitely was a little weird,” said Pelfrey, who struck out six and didn’t walk a Peoria batter. “The second time through the lineup, I started throwing curveballs and sliders.”

Pelfrey was scheduled to go five innings but requested a sixth. “I walked off feeling good,” he said.

TwinsFest to Target Field

TwinsFest will be held in late January as usual, the team announced, but “this will not be the TwinsFest that fans are used to,” team President Dave St. Peter said.

That’s because, with the relatively roomy Metrodome scheduled to be demolished, the Twins have decided to move the three-day event — Jan. 24-26, 2014 — to Target Field. Where all the autograph booths and photo galleries will take place has yet to be determined, St. Peter said, but “there will certainly be fewer vendors, just because of our space.”

Capacity also will be smaller, though St. Peter said the Twins haven’t worked out how many people can be accommodated. That will depend on whether they can tent off some concourse space and heat it; even tents on the field is a possibility.

It’s possible the event will move back to the Vikings stadium once it’s built.

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