Twins notes: Willingham back at Target Field, and in playoff race

Josh Willingham on Friday played in the 1,127th game of this major league career. Very few have been meaningful this late in the season, and none have come in the playoffs.

That could be changing for the 35-year-old slugger. When Ron Gardenhire interrupted Willingham’s pregame stretching on Monday to tell him he had been traded to Kansas City, Willingham shot up three spots in the AL Central standings to the hottest club in baseball.

“I just want to help them any way possible,” said Willingham, sitting in the visitors dugout at Target Field before Friday’s game wearing a blue No. 7 Royals jersey.

No kidding. Willingham stole second base Wednesday, going on lefthander Scott Kazmir’s first move, during a 3-0 victory against Oakland.

“The last time he did that with us he blew his knee out,” Gardenhire said. “We kind of shut that stuff down.”

Kansas City has stormed past the sputtering Detroit Tigers and into first place in the AL Central. The Royals entered Friday 18-4 since July 22. With a rotation led by James Shields, a bullpen full of hard throwers and a solid defense, Kansas City has made itself a real threat to stop Detroit’s three-year run as division champions.

“They have a great pitching staff and one of the best bullpens in baseball, which always helps,” Gardenhire said. “They are one of the more athletic teams, if not the most athletic team, in baseball.”

Offense has been an issue at times, and the Royals’ 72 home runs are the fewest in the majors. First baseman Eric Hosmer is on the disabled list with a fractured right hand. Billy Butler, normally the designated hitter, has moved to first, which has opened up at-bats for Willingham at DH.

Willingham received a loud ovation from the crowd Friday night as starting lineups were announced — then struck out against Ricky Nolasco in his first at-bat with runners on first and second. But he hit a three-run double off Nolasco to spark a five-run Royals fourth.

He hasn’t experienced playoff baseball in his career but the Royals might give him that opportunity.

“It would mean a lot,” Willingham said. “Obviously when you play in games that mean something in late August and September, I’ve never experienced that before. Hopefully I’ll get to experience that this year and help our ballclub get into October.”

Buxton update

Class AA New Britain outfielder Byron Buxton will head to Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday to continue his recovery from a concussion suffered Wednesday, when he collided with a teammate and was knocked unconscious.

Buxton, the Twins’ top prospect, has a home in Fort Myers and can be checked on by the medical staff on hand at the team’s year-round complex.

“Just going to let him go down there and recover,” Twins official Jack Goin said. “We’re not going to push him. There’s really no timetable. As you guys have seen with concussions, you can’t put a time frame on them. So as he gets healthy and is able to do things, we’ll let him do things.”

Goin could not provide details on what symptoms Buxton was dealing with.

Buxton, playing center field, was chasing after a sinking fly ball Wednesday when he collided with right fielder Mike Kvasnicka. Buxton was knocked out for about 10 minutes. Kvasnicka suffered injuries to his hip and abdomen but should recover.

Pino sent down

The Twins sent righthander Yohan Pino to Class AAA Rochester to make room for Nolasco to return from the DL.

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    Saturday August 16, 2014

    The recently activated Twins righthander was done in by a brutal five-run Royals fourth in his first start since July 6.

  • Joe Mauer welcomed Josh Willingham back to Target Field.

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Kansas City - LP: B. Finnegan 4 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit 11
Detroit 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 3:25 PM
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Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
Montreal 3
New Jersey 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Dallas 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 7
Detroit 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Chicago 2 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Minnesota 7
Florida 1 FINAL(OT)
Arizona 2
Washington 3 FINAL
Calgary 1
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 FINAL
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 59 FINAL
Washington St 37
Texas-El Paso 34 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 0
Wyoming 31 FINAL
Colorado State 45
Syracuse 6 FINAL
(21) Clemson 16
Texas State 22 FINAL
ULM 18
(3) Ole Miss 7 FINAL
(24) LSU 10
(4) Alabama 34 FINAL
Tennessee 20
So Carolina 35 FINAL
(5) Auburn 42
(13) Ohio State 31 FINAL
Penn State 24
(20) USC 21 FINAL
(19) Utah 24
(14) Arizona State 24 FINAL
Washington 10
Nevada 26 FINAL
Hawaii 18
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
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Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 FINAL
New England 1
Portland 2 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Colorado 0 FINAL
Vancouver FC 1
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 28 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
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