CLEVELAND – Joe Mauer hit indoors Friday as he inches closer to a return to the Twins lineup, but the Twins could also take the safe route and sit him until next week.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Friday’s game that Mauer was improving and that he was waiting to learn if he would be available as a pinch hitter.
“He took some swings in the cage, some soft toss and all that stuff, and did OK,” Gardenhire said.
Mauer, who suffered back spasms Sunday and has dealt with lingering soreness since then, hoped he could be available either Friday or Saturday. Gardenhire has said that Mauer would be a candidate for the disabled list if he couldn’t play by Saturday.
That DL move could be backdated to Sunday, the last time he played. And he would miss another week or so.
But Gardenhire brought up another scenario. Mauer could sit out the three games this weekend and then have Monday’s off day to rest his back before the Twins play host to Boston on Tuesday.
They could select that route if they really believe Mauer is close to returning.
The risk in playing Mauer this series is that if he has a setback and lands on the DL, the stint would begin this weekend and Mauer would be out until the last week of May.
“I’d love to have him back,” Gardenhire said, “but if he’s not healthy, he’s not healthy.”
Almost full strength
The reason Gardenhire is willing to carry Mauer on the roster a few more days without a DL move is because he’s close to having a complete bench now.
“We actually have a bench,” he said. “I actually have three outfielders in the outfield, which is a good thing.”
Eduardo Nunez, who can play around the infield and the corner outfield spots, joined the team during Thursday’s game against Cleveland.
Aaron Hicks was activated off the seven-day concussion DL. And Chris Parmelee had his contract purchased from Class AAA Rochester. To make room for Hicks and Parmelee, Pedro Florimon and Chris Herrmann were sent to Rochester. To make room for Parmelee on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated outfielder Kenny Wilson for assignment. Wilson, at Class AA New Britain, was claimed off waivers from Toronto on April 24.
The Twins were down to one bench player Thursday in Cleveland.
Not only was Parmelee cut from camp after batting .195 during spring training, he was designated for assignment late in March.
And he made it through waivers. None of the 29 teams wanted to take a shot at him.