Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Saturday lineups (Twins/Rays): Nathan, Hardy updates

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: March 20, 2010 - 12:42 PM

PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. -- Joe Nathan was in the Twins' clubhouse this morning but did not play catch to test his elbow before Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson left on the bus for today's game.

This is at least from what I could tell. The team is trying to keep it all pretty hush hush.

"We don’t want a media circus," Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We’ll let you know as soon as he throws."

J.J. Hardy, who has been out for a week with a strained quadriceps muscle, said he'll play in a minor-league game today and hopes to return to the Twins' lineup on Sunday. Justin Morneau and Jim Thome will also play in that minor-league game.

The Twins have back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Rays. Today's it's Francisco Liriano vs. David Price. Michael Cuddyer is getting the start in center field, with Ben Revere in left field, Jacque Jones in right and Delmon Young as the DH.

Update: There's a reason the Twins optioned Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Slama after Friday's game. Players on the 40-man roster who did not finish the previous year in the majors need to be optioned before today (16 days before Opening Day), or, in the event of an injury, they must be kept on the major league DL.

Since Valencia was expected to contend for the starting third base job, his cut seemed particularly abrupt.

Asked what impression Valencia made this spring, Gardenhire said, "He was fine. He moved around just fine. A good arm. He’s still got to learn where to play guys defensively and all those things. His bat seems good, there’s things he’s going to have work on, hitting the breaking ball and all those things. We saw teams that knew him down here they were spinning a lot of balls. ... But I guarantee you one thing: He can hit a fastball, and if he sits on a breaking ball, he can hit that, too. ... We’re going to go away here with our infield, and if anybody has any issues, he’ll get a chance."

Update: Hardy went 0-for-2 with a walk in a game against the Orioles' Class AAA Norfolk affiliate. Jim Thome went 0-for-3 with an RBI in that game. Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 in a game against the Orioles' Class AA Bowie affiliate. Reports are that all three came away feeling good physically.

TWINS

 1. Ben Revere, LF

2. Orlando Hudson, 2B

3. Delmon Young, DH

4. Michael Cuddyer, CF

5. Jacque Jones, RF

6. Brendan Harris, 1B

7. Alexi Casilla, SS

8. Drew Butera, C

9. Nick Punto, 3B

Scheduled pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama

RAYS

1. Sean Rodriguez, SS

2. Dioner Navarro, C

3. Gabe Kapler, CF

4. Willy Aybar, 1B

5. Justin Ruggiano, RF

6. Ryan Shealy, DH

7. Elliot Johnson, 3B

8. J.J. Furmaniak, LF

9. Reid Brignac, 2B

Scheduled pitchers: David Price, Grant Balfour, Lance Cormier, Randy Choate, Rafael Soriano.

Charlotte Sports Park. First pitch: 12:05 p.m. (Central). No TV. Twins Radio Network

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