Twins claim outfielder Fuld off waivers from Oakland

– The Twins on Sunday claimed outfielder Sam Fuld off waivers from Oakland, a move that might have been fueled partly by concerns about center fielder Aaron Hicks.

Fuld, 32, can play all three outfield positions and is known for making the spectacular catch. He hit .200 in seven games with the Athletics, filling in while Coco Crisp recovered from an injury. Fuld homered against the Twins on April 10 during the opening series at Target Field. He was designated for assignment April 12.

Fuld remained in the Bay Area while awaiting his fate and will join the Twins in St. Petersburg, Fla., in time for their series against the Rays, the team for which Fuld played the past three years.

“It feels great,” Fuld said during a phone conversation Sunday. “The whole DFA process and the waiting game is really, really stressful. I felt like I was awaiting something life or death. I knew life would go on if I cleared waivers and would play in Triple-A somewhere. It’s a big relief to be claimed.”

Fuld is a natural lefthanded hitter while Hicks, a switch hitter, is weaker from that side. Indications are the Twins plan to use Fuld against some righthanders, taking at-bats from Hicks, their 2008 first-round draft pick.

“It’s going to be up to [manager Ron Gardenhire], but we have discussed that,” said Rob Antony, Twins assistant general manager. “It might be a platoon center field situation. I think Aaron is more comfortable from the right side, get him more at-bats where he is comfortable and get him going.”

Hicks said following the Twins’ 8-3 victory over the Royals on Sunday that he wasn’t worried about losing at-bats but admitted he is struggling.

“Being a young guy I’m up there trying to grind out at-bats but most importantly help the team out,” Hicks said.

Hicks is batting .179 overall and .161 as a lefthanded hitter. He also didn’t hustle to back up at least two plays in the outfield Saturday, which Gardenhire pointed out before Sunday’s game.

“I wouldn’t say he’s gotten off to a great start,” Antony said. “I don’t think he’s inked in as our center fielder every day for the rest of the season. I think he needs to improve his game and become more consistent.”

To make room for Fuld, the Twins designated outfielder Darin Mastroianni for assignment. Mastroianni was 0-for-11 in seven games. The Twins have 10 days to trade him, release him or send him down. Antony said they would like to keep Mastroianni if he clears waivers. Mastroianni, however, would have the right to reject the assignment because it would be his second time being outrighted.

Gardenhire would not say whether he is contemplating a platoon situation with Hicks and Fuld. But he suggested that Fuld will move around the outfield.

“We’re not here saying ‘heads up’ to anybody,” he said, “but ‘heads up’ to everybody.”

Nunez scratched

Infielder Eduardo Nunez, potentially Pedro Florimon’s replacement at shortstop, was scratched from Class AAA Rochester’s lineup Sunday because of a strained oblique muscle. Antony said it’s just a slight strain. Given the pesky nature of an oblique injury, there’s a chance Nunez could miss two or three days.

The Twins traded for Nunez with the goal of bringing him to the majors as soon as he was ready to play every day. All indications are that Florimon, batting .150, has exhausted all chances of remaining the starter. Nunez is not as good defensively as Florimon but is a better hitter.

Job well done

Gardenhire sent Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards a congratulatory text message following the team’s overtime playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. The two remain friends from Richards’ time as coach of the Wild.

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