After getting Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins and Tsuyoshi Nishioka back from the disabled list this week, the Twins are waiting for another wave of returnees.

Jim Thome could be next.

The slugger with 593 career home runs is ready to start playing games in Fort Myers, Fla. He is recovering from a strained quadriceps and back issue.

The Twins open a series in San Francisco on Tuesday and play three more games under National League rules next weekend in Milwaukee. With no DH, Thome would be limited to pinch hit duty.

"If we deem it's the right thing to get him at-bats [in Florida], or the right thing to get him one [at-bat] a game in the National League cities, that's what we'll do," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But first we have to see where he's at."

With three catchers on the roster, Friday's bench had Rene Rivera, Drew Butera, Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert. If he's ready physically, Thome would give Gardenhire a slightly more imposing pinch-hit option, especially with pitchers batting next week.

Next wave

Gardenhire mentioned next Friday as a target date for Joe Nathan's return from a strained flexor muscle. Gardenhire wants Nathan to pitch in three rehab games for Class AAA Rochester, including appearances on back-to-back days.

"He says he feels great," Gardenhire said. "The arm feels as good as it can feel. It would be nice to have him join us somewhere near Milwaukee."

Trainer Rick McWane said Denard Span (concussion) and Jason Kubel (sprained left foot) have been ruled out to travel to San Francisco, which means the earliest either would return is Friday.

Merila's homecoming

In 2005, Plymouth native Mark Merila was told he had only three months to live because of an inoperable brain tumor.

Then-Padres owner John Moores "sent me to the UCLA Medical Center and basically saved my life," Merila said.

Merila, 39, first became the Padres bullpen catcher in 1996. A former All-America infielder for the Gophers, Merila said he is feeling much better these days, though he has lost sight in his right eye and struggles to use his right hand.

The 5-9 father of three said he has lost more than 80 pounds after swelling to 285. These days, he helps out with the Padres infield instruction. He doesn't travel much, but he made the trip to Minnesota, giving him a chance to see friends and family.