Twins will look at helping bullpen

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Padres reliever Chad Qualls

Photo: Genevieve Ross, Associated Press

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SAN FRANCISCO - The Twins will do something over the next few weeks that was unthinkable at the beginning of the month. They will monitor clubs that will have relievers available prior to the July 31 trade deadline, a team source said.

Despite losing two of three to the Giants, the Twins are back from the dead in the AL Central. They need to continue to play well, or their approach could change.

But if they reach the All-Star break without giving up any more ground, they will explore deals for relief help from teams such as the Padres, who have righthanders Mike Adams and Chad Qualls and are expected to be sellers before the trade deadline.

Taking on a reliever suggests the Twins are willing to add to their $113 million payroll if they believe they are a factor in the playoff race. Twins President Dave St. Peter on Thursday wouldn't specifically comment on the meetings he and General Manager Bill Smith have had with owner Jim Pohlad about payroll.

"We all want to see this team continue to play its way back to .500, and get back into contention for a postseason spot," St. Peter said. "We will evaluate those opportunities to make this team better as they come forward.

"Make no mistake: I think everybody within our organization, our players included, think the best thing this club can do is get healthy."

First baseman Justin Morneau (bruised left wrist) will have his cast removed Friday and could need a week to regain range of motion and strength before he can swing a bat. Outfielder Jason Kubel (left foot bruise) is running better but hasn't run the bases yet. Outfielder Denard Span (concussion) has been playing catch and could start hitting over the weekend.

"Certainly, we will assess other opportunities beyond that as they are warranted," St. Peter said, "but the initial objective is to get our 'A' lineup back on the field."

One move made, one to go

The Twins will activate reliever Joe Nathan from the 15-day disabled list in time for Friday's game at Milwaukee.

To make room, the Twins will send reliever Jim Hoey back to Class AAA Rochester. Hoey is 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA but has thrown four scoreless innings over his past five appearances.

Nathan landed on the DL because of a flexor muscle strain. He threw three scoreless innings in two appearances for Rochester this week.

The Twins were expected to make a move to clear space for the return of slugger Jim Thome (back/quadriceps) but have decided to wait a day.

Etc.

• Righthanders Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks will represent the Twins at the annual All-Star Futures Game, held July 10 at Chase Field in Phoenix. Gibson is considered the Twins' top pitching prospect. Hendriks, an Australian at Class AA New Britain, we was named to last year's Futures Game but had appendicitis and couldn't appear.

• Neither catcher Joe Mauer nor shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka started, but both pinch hit in the eighth inning, with Nishioka, who was resting a slightly sore hamstring, staying in the game. Ron Gardenhire said Mauer wanted to face Tim Lincecum, but the Twins manager decided to sit him a day game after a night game.

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