Mauer still on pinch-hitting only duty

The catcher is improving but might not start until the weekend series at Cincinnati.

PITTSBURGH - Joe Mauer sprayed balls all over PNC Park before Wednesday's game and jogged around the bases without a limp. But he's still on pinch-hit-only status.

The Twins haven't said for sure, but with only one game left in the series, Mauer might not start again until a weekend series against Cincinnati at Great American Ballpark.

All they will say is that Mauer, who suffered a bruised thigh on Sunday, is day-to-day.

"Mauer is still a little sore today," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "but better."

Without Mauer in the lineup Tuesday, the Twins lost 7-2 to the Pirates before winning 2-1 without him Wednesday.

Drew Butera caught on Wednesday against lefthander Erik Bedard. Ryan Doumit, batting .136 over his previous five games and .224 against lefties, stayed on the bench.

Even with this recent injury, Mauer has appeared in 60 of 67 games.

Capps close

Gardenhire said closer Matt Capps could have been used Wednesday.

That's an indication that Capps, slowed by a sore shoulder over the weekend, is close to returning to action.

"Cappy went out and threw some in the bullpen [Wednesday] and is definitely better," Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire is satisfied that most of his bullpen has recovered from a busy weekend that included nine innings of work on Sunday against Milwaukee.

Split decision?

Justin Morneau entered Wednesday batting .094 (6-for-64) against lefthanded pitchers but was in the lineup against Bedard. Gardenhire didn't have many other choices, and Morneau was batting .407 against Bedard.

"I think he's thinking about it an awful lot, trying to figure out what's wrong rather than seeing and hitting and getting back to the basics in this game," Gardenhire said. "Always get back to the basics see the ball and hit the ball. Wait back as long as you can. Jam yourself a few times, stay on the ball and start getting a few hits, and then you go from there."

Draft pick signs

Supplemental pick Luke Bard, a righthander from Georgia Tech, signed a deal Tuesday that includes a $1.227 million signing bonus. That's the amount the league suggested for that slot.

Bard will head to Fort Myers, Fla., to prepare for his first pro season, but he has a shoulder issue that will be treated before he's assigned to a club. The Twins were aware of the issue before the draft and still selected him 42nd overall.

The Twins have signed their first 10 picks, including their two picks in the supplemental round. They are making progress with eighth-round pick Christian Powell, a righthander from the University of Charleston.

Etc.

• Class AAA Rochester righthander Carlos Gutierrez, the Twins' first-round pick in 2008, has been shut down for second time this season because of shoulder problems.

• Rochester righthander Lester Oliveros, who was called up by the Twins earlier this month, has been placed on the disabled list because of a strained elbow.

• Lefty Caleb Thielbar was promoted to Rochester. Thielbar, from Northfield, was drafted by the Brewers but released after the 2010 season and was pitching for the St. Paul Saints last year when the Twins signed him.

• First-round pick Byron Buxton, who signed last week, is expected to make is pro debut this weekend for the Twins rookie team in the Gulf Coast League.

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