CHICAGO — Phil Hughes is back in the Twins’ rotation, and so is Tyler Duffey. Heck, so is Mike Pelfrey, eventually.
Hughes will make his first start since Aug. 9 on Tuesday against the Tigers in Target Field, an admittedly ambitious timetable after his lower-back injury, but necessary, Paul Molitor said, given the Twins’ spot in the wild-card standings.
“It’s not really a normal thing you would probably consider early in the year, to bring him out there without some kind of rehab game,” Molitor said. But he and pitching coach Neil Allen “feel it’s the right thing to get him in a game. … Given where we’re at, in the limited amount of games we have to play, we decided to put him out there.”
Same goes for Duffey, the rookie righthander who was given a couple of extra days of rest in consideration of his career-high 171 innings pitched this season. The Twins aren’t certain how many more starts to give him, but it’s a decent bet that he won’t go more than once a week.
Which is where Pelfrey comes in. Molitor isn’t planning to go to a six-man rotation exactly, but he’ll mix his six starters in as he sees fit, giving extra rest here and there and trying to get his pitchers in favorable matchups. Pelfrey, for instance, is much more effective in Target Field this year (2.35 ERA) than on the road (5.85), so he’s unlikely to get another road start.
Pelfrey won’t go to the bullpen, but he won’t pitch every five days, either. “We still have him scheduled to pitch. We’re going to try to keep him as strong as we can,” Molitor said. “Once we can tell him when he’s going to pitch again, it will probably affect some of the side work he does.”
Pelfrey pitched reasonable well in Kansas City on Wednesday, limiting the Royals to one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Hughes understands and agrees with the rushed schedule. “With twenty-some games left in the season, we might as well see how much I can provide,” the righthander said. “I’ll treat it like a normal game. If we feel like my stuff is good enough, we’ll squeeze as much out of the season as we can.”
That’s probably 75 pitches on Tuesday, after he worked for 45 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday, then threw another 15 in the bullpen. He’ll throw in the pen again on Saturday, focusing on his command of the strike zone, he said.
As for Friday’s game, Kurt Suzuki is back in the lineup just two days after that frightening collision with Jarrod Dyson that bruised his left knee. Doctors have examined the knee again and found no structural damage — his foot was not planted in the dirt when Dyson hit him, so his knee was able to give way with no ligament tearing — and Suzuki said it’s not even especially painful. Not enough to keep him out of the game, anyway.
Also back: Miguel Sano, who said his hamstring has noticeably improved with three days mostly off. He thinks he can run “about 80 percent” if he has to.
Skies are threatening at U.S. Cellular Field, but the White Sox are optimistic about getting tonight’s game in without a delay. Here are the lineups for tonight’s game:
M. Johnson 2B
E. Johnson RHP