Ailing Willingham bothered by sore left knee

Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, bothered for several weeks by a sore left knee, had a cortisone injection in the knee Saturday and was not available Sunday.

The Twins hope that, with a scheduled off day Monday, Willingham will be ready to return to the outfield Tuesday against the White Sox.

Willingham said the cause of the injury was “not one thing, just wear and tear.” But he did acknowledge that his slide into second on April 27 against Texas — for his only stolen base of the season — didn’t help.

“I wish I could blame it on my hitting, but I can’t,” said Willingham, who is batting .211 with 10 homers and 31 RBI.

Willingham said the knee affects his running and outfield play. Yes, Willingham’s defense isn’t his strong suit, but he wants to be able to move around as much as he can out there. And his knee wasn’t making that possible.

“He’s kind of been fighting it off and on and this gives us a chance to do some things, get a little shot in his knee to clear up some things and he will be back on Tuesday,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Mr. 300

On April 15, 1999, Torii Hunter hit the first home run of his career at old Tiger Stadium off Brian Moehler. On Sunday, he hit No. 300 — a two-run shot off Twins righthander P.J. Walters in the first inning. The former Twins star said it seemed as if he was flying around the bases.

“It was just awesome to get that monkey off my back,” Hunter said. “I’m telling you, for the last 30 at-bats I’ve been like, ‘I’ve got to get this out of the way.’ My average suffered just trying to get that home run.”

Hunter hit No. 299 against his old team as well, off Mike Pelfrey at Comerica Park on May 26. He went 13-for-61 (. 213) heading into play Sunday, so it was a little longer than 30 at-bats. But he got 2-0 fastball from Walters and drove it into the seats in left.

Hunter smiled as he talked about hitting his 300th against the Twins. “It’s pretty cool,” he said.

Gardenhire, whose offense is getting shut down almost daily, eventually offered some kind words about Hunter in his postgame talk with reporters.

“Always not exactly happy when he does it against you, but I’m proud of him,” Gardenhire said. “He started in this organization and he’s had a heck of a career. Three hundred is a heck of a lot of home runs and he still plays the game with a lot of enthusiasm. You have to tip your hat to him. One of the classy guys in the game.”

Hunter dressed with two bottles of Dom Pérignon at his stall. One was given to him by Justin Verlander, the other from the rest of the Tigers.


• Righthander Rich Harden is about to test his shoulder out again. Harden, on the comeback trail with the Twins following shoulder surgery last year, had to back off throwing a month ago when he experienced discomfort. Harden is feeling better and will attempt to throw live batting practice in the next few days.

• Righthander Nick Blackburn, on the comeback trail following offseason wrist surgery, has been throwing regularly at Fort Myers, Fla., and is close to appearing in a game. General Manager Terry Ryan indicated that Blackburn could pitch in minor league games in early July.

• Class A Cedar Rapids outfielder Byron Buxton was named Twins’ minor league player of the week after batting .370 in six games with a home run, eight RBI and six runs scored. He also made several fine catches.Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, is batting .344 with eight home runs, 51 RBI and 29 stolen bases in 63 games.

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