Both veterans, rookies crave more playing time

Injured regulars want to return to end the season well, and the kids want to prove themselves before spring training.

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Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

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Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer might need four or five more days before his sore left wrist heals enough for him to play. But once he's healthy, he wants to be on the field.

"I never want to sit on the bench," he said. "Right now, I can't go out there and play. I'm not really good out there right now, the way my wrist is."

Outfielder Denard Span, working his way through migraine symptoms, said it's worth it to try to play a few games before the season is over, if he can string a few days of good workouts together.

"If I continue every day to keep up with everyone else, then I'll go out there and try to play some games," he said.

The Twins could just shut down Cuddyer, Span, first baseman Justin Morneau (concussion symptoms) and Jason Kubel (sore left foot) for the rest of the season and keep playing prospects such as Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee. They could cancel upcoming bullpen sessions for Scott Baker (elbow), Francisco Liriano (shoulder) and Brian Duensing (oblique) and give more time to Lester Oliveros, Kyle Waldrop and Scott Diamond. It would be easy to focus on the future.

Manager Ron Gardenhire is in the middle of it. He's running daily tutorials in the early afternoon to help the young players get better. But he knows his veterans want a shot to go into the offseason on a positive note.

"Everyone wants to finish strong," Gardenhire said before Wednesday's 5-4 victory over the White Sox. "No one wants to go into the offseason after struggling, the whole package, everyone wants to come out and feel a little better about themselves when the season ends and go into the winter as best you can."

That also goes for catcher Joe Mauer, in the middle of another physically challenging season. He's hasn't caught a game since Aug. 20, starting games at first base or as the designated hitter.

"Yes, I want to finish out the season," he said. "I'm a professional and I should do my job."

Span's and Morneau's cases are tricky ones because both have to prove that their heads are clear enough for them to return to action. Both remain in contact with Pittsburgh specialist Dr. Michael Collins, whose patients include Baltimore's Brian Roberts and Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

Span worked out with the team Tuesday and Wednesday and continues to have up-and-down moments.

"When I'm feeling good, my mindset is that I want to play five or six games," Span said. "When I'm not feeling good I just want to crawl in a hole and go home and shut it down. My mood swings vary."

But Span holds out hope he can play, just like Morneau does. If Morneau plays again this season, it will be as a designated hitter only. Both view playing before the season ends as a goal worth pursuing.

"It has not been fun for him," Gardenhire said of Morneau, "and I'm sure Justin wants to go into winter [after] putting in a few good swings and heading into the winter on a good swing pattern ... rather than sitting there and not knowing how it's going to feel when he comes back."

Healing Twins players want to come back for other reasons. They fell into last place in the AL Central this week and want to get out of the basement. And they need four victories to guarantee avoiding 100 losses, which isn't a slam dunk since they are 9-28 over their past 37 games.

"That's not fun," Cuddyer said. "We have never been in this position before. You want to go out there and you want to win.

"But this is ugly."

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