KANSAS CITY, MO. - Having eight players on the disabled list has enabled the Twins to extend long-awaited opportunities to several players who started the year at Class AAA Rochester.
Rene Rivera hadn't caught in the big leagues since 2006. Phil Dumatrait spent last season pitching in South Korea. Chuck James has come back from shoulder surgery that derailed his promising tenure with Atlanta from 2005 to '08.
The latest feel-good story is Brian Dinkelman, who arrived Friday to give the Twins a lefthanded bat off the bench. His best positions are left field and second base.
A 2006 eighth-round draft pick out of McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill., Dinkelman has had a career that is a testament to hard work. He made every road trip for the Twins during spring training even though he wasn't on the 40-man roster.
Class AAA manager Tom Nieto called Dinkelman on Thursday to tell him to pack his bags for the big leagues.
"At first I didn't know whether to believe him, but once I knew it was real, that was exciting," said Dinkelman, who was batting .296 for the Red Wings. "You just never think that day will come, but it's here and I'm just glad to be here."
Dinkelman, 27, is a Centralia, Ill., native, which gave about 20 of his friends and family members a chance to make the five-hour drive to Kansas City for the weekend. He didn't play in the Twins' 5-2 victory over the Royals on Friday.
Plouffe's next step
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it was tough sending shortstop Trevor Plouffe back to Class AAA Rochester on Thursday. Plouffe had taken a ball off the end of his finger during batting practice and broken a fingernail, and then came the demotion.
"He needs to go get his confidence back and play," Gardenhire said. "It's kind of on his shoulders. He came up here, put a few balls in the seats and swung pretty decent, but he didn't play the defense we were looking for."
Gardenhire said the organization has talked about having Plouffe play some outfield at Rochester, just to give him more versatility.
• One day after catching his first three innings since April 12, Joe Mauer went 2-for-5 with two singles and walk as the designated hitter in an extended spring training game. He is scheduled to catch five innings on Saturday.
• Tsuyoshi Nishioka continues to play full extended spring training games. The next step in his recovery from a broken left fibula is a rehab stint with Class A Fort Myers, but he is still experiencing occasional soreness and isn't quite ready.
• An MRI exam on Jason Kubel's sprained left foot showed inflammation but no fractures or ligament damage.
• Glen Perkins (strained left oblique) is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday. The lefthander is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday but might need a minor league rehab stint.
• Class AA New Britain outfielder Joe Benson will undergo left knee surgery Monday in the Twin Cities to repair a slight meniscus tear, but he should be ready to return in two to three weeks. In 50 games, Benson is batting .294 with five home runs, 16 doubles, seven stolen bases and 26 RBI.
Staff writer La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this report.