Thome, Nathan to return Friday

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Twins reliever Joe Nathan

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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SAN FRANCISCO - The Twins will be closer to full strength by Friday, when designated hitter Jim Thome and reliever Joe Nathan re-join the team in time for a weekend series in Milwaukee.

Thome took five at-bats Wednesday during a simulated game in Fort Myers, Fla. Thome, who has been slowed by back and quadriceps problems and recently received an epidural injection, will meet the team in Milwaukee for the series against the Brewers.

"That's great to have him [to] come off the bench,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Nathan, who landed on the disabled list because of soreness in his surgically repaired elbow, started for Class AAA Rochester against Charlotte on Wednesday, giving up an unearned run on one hit and one walk but recording all three outs on strikeouts.

The strikeouts came against Dayan Viciedo (looking), Dallas McPherson (swinging) and Tyler Flowers (swinging). Nathan, like Thome, will join the Twins on Friday.

Gardenhire wanted Nathan to pitch on back-in-back games before he returned to the team.

"He was on the fast track," Gardenhire said. "He really wanted to be back up here. I wanted him to throw on back-to-back days and see how he does.

"Everything they are telling me is that he's feeling great.''

To make room for Thome and Nathan, the Twins must decide whom to demote. With Thome coming back, they are expected to send down a catcher, either Drew Butera or Rene Rivera. Gardenhire indicated Tuesday that carrying three catchers is a luxury.

The decision on which pitcher moves to clear room for Nathan will be interesting. With Twins starters excelling of late, lefthander Phil Dumatrait pitched Wednesday for the first time since June 8 and righthanders Jim Hoey and Anthony Swarzak haven't pitched since June 10.

Other injury updates

• Righthander Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) pitched two innings in the simulated game, throwing approximately 30 pitches. His next appearance will be Saturday for the Twins' Gulf Coast League rookie team, when he'll pitch two or three innings.

• Outfielder Jason Kubel (left foot sprain) is making progress. "He had a good day of running,'' Twins trainer Rick McWane said, "but he's not ready to run the bases.''

• There was no update on outfielder Denard Span (concussion). He still is out indefinitely.

• First baseman Justin Morneau (sore left wrist) will have his cast removed Friday.

Etc.

• Twins third baseman Danny Valencia said his right arm isn't 100 percent because of a sore triceps, but he was determined to return to the lineup Tuesday. His arm was tested three times late in the game, but Valencia proved he can make the throws when needed.

• Something to keep an eye on: The club record for victories in June is 22, set in 1991. The Twins entered Wednesday's night's game against the Giants with a 15-3 record in June.

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