Slowey likely to replace Ortiz in rotation

The Twins haven't officially announced anything, but all indications are that righthander Ramon Ortiz, who has a 10.97 ERA this month, will be demoted to the bullpen.

That would open the door for Class AAA Rochester righthander Kevin Slowey to step into the rotation.

Ortiz continued his bad month Saturday by giving up three homers and six runs in six innings to Toronto. Ortiz is now 3-4 with a 5.75 ERA on a team that's trying to remain relevant in the American League Central.

After Saturday's game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Ortiz would be re-evaluated. On Sunday, he said no decision had been made.

"We'll decide on where we are going to go with our bullpen and whole package, make adjustments," Gardenhire said. "We have to talk to the player first. We'll let you know where we are at."

Ortiz is expected to meet with Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson on Monday. His next turn in the rotation is Friday, but the Twins could skip that spot because of an off day Thursday.

Mauer's really, really close

Catcher Joe Mauer, nearly healthy after suffering a strained left quadriceps muscle three weeks ago, did extensive work before Sunday's game.

"I'm just trying to get my legs strong now," he said.

The last test usually is running the bases, which could happen before today's game. Gardenhire said it's realistic to think the All-Star and batting champion will be activated from the 15-day disabled list during the Chicago White Sox series, which runs today through Wednesday.

"He felt better about it today than he has any other day," Gardenhire said.

Nathan knows

There's a growing belief today that shoulder surgeries are tougher to recover from than elbow injuries, which doesn't bode well for Twins righthander Jesse Crain as he prepares for surgery Tuesday to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum.

There are many success stories, however, and Crain can look at closer Joe Nathan for inspiration.

Nathan, whose first pitch in the majors was clocked at 97 miles per hour, said he had surgery in October 2000 for similar injuries. He came out of surgery throwing 86 mph, and it took a couple of years for Nathan to throw in the mid-90s again, but he got it back.

Looking back, Nathan said he thinks trying to return in time for the 2001 season wasn't enough time to strengthen his shoulder. So Crain has time on his side.

"The good thing he has going for him is that he's going to have it in May instead of October," Nathan said. "He'll have a lot more time to strengthen the shoulder."

Crain will have his surgery in New York done by Mets team physician David Altchek.

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