Twins mull next move on Thome

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Twins designated hitter Jim Thome

Photo: Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

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SAN FRANCISCO - Designated hitter Jim Thome will face righthanders Kevin Slowey and Jeff Manship on Wednesday during a simulated game in Fort Myers, Fla. Slowey has been recovering from an abdominal strain while Manship is on the comeback trail from shoulder problems.

Thome is working his way back from a sore back and quadriceps. It's unclear if the at-bats will be enough for Thome to be activated from the disabled list.

"Is that what's best for him?'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire asked. "I would love to have Jim Thome come off the bench in a big situation, but I want to make sure he's ready.''

Gardenhire said the Twins haven't reached a consensus on what Thome's next step will be. Some want him to face tougher competition. Others believe Slowey and Manship are tougher competition.

The Twins still are days away from having to make a decision about activating Thome, but Gardenhire didn't sound as if going with 11 pitchers is an option. That would enable him to keep two backup catchers.

"Three catchers is an awful lot to carry on your roster at one time,'' Gardenhire said. "I've always enjoyed it, but it's a little tough.''

Valencia starts

Third baseman Danny Valencia, who missed Sunday's game because of a sore right triceps, fielded grounders and took early batting practice to prove he was able to start Tuesday .

Gardenhire said Valencia told him he was 100 percent. The manager was skeptical but seemed to understand how badly Valencia wanted to return to the lineup.

"I asked him if the arm bothers him a little bit,'' Gardenhire said. "He says, 'I'm not going to tell the manager.'''

Gardenhire not worried

Entering Tuesday's game, Joe Mauer was 1-for-11 since returning to the Twins following his two-month stretch on the DL.

"I don't worry about his swing,'' Gardenhire said. "He can hit, he'll always hit and I believe he'll hit. Did he look a little rusty? Maybe a little bit, I don't know.

"Maybe they made good pitches on him, but he's hit about three line drives right at people. I'll just let him go out and swing and go from there.''

Connections with Giants

Gardenhire and Giants manager Bruce Bochy played together in 1983 for the Class AAA Tidewater Tides in the Mets organization.

San Francisco reliever Santiago Casilla has a cousin with the Twins -- Francisco Liriano, not Alexi Casilla.

Giants catcher Eli Whiteside was in Twins spring training in 2008 and played eight games for Class AAA Rochester before being released. The Giants signed him after that, and he has been with the organization ever since.

Giants outfielder Andres Torres spent 2006 with Rochester.

Etc.

• Gardenhire moved shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka to eighth in the batting order Tuesday because he wanted speed in front of the pitcher's spot. That way, the pitcher could try to bunt Nishioka over a base rather than trying to hit.

• Twins righthander Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Class AAA Rochester on Tuesday. Nathan, working his way back from a sore elbow, gave up a leadoff single but worked around it. He threw 11 pitches and is scheduled to appear Wednesday. ''Everything went well,'' Nathan said. ''Located fastball well. Felt good. Do it again tomorrow.''

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