NEW YORK - Infielder Luke Hughes led the Twins with six homers and 20 RBI during spring training. Now his career with the club might be over.

Hughes was designated for assignment Wednesday, as the club needed to make room for the return of pitcher Jason Marquis. Because of injuries to the pitching staff and being in Yankee Stadium, the club decided to keep 13 pitchers for the time being.

That meant a position player had to go. Hughes, 27, had arrived early Wednesday to take extra batting practice when first base coach Jerry White told him the manager was looking for him.

"I've been with the Twins for 10 years," said Hughes, who signed as a teenager out of Australia in 2002. "They gave me my first opportunity to play in the major leagues so I'm thankful. So I'm disappointed. We'll see what happens in the next few days and go from there."

The Twins have 10 days to trade him or they can release him or send him to the minors, but he must pass through waivers first. Hughes has some pop in his bat, but the club hoped for more progress defensively.

"We had to send a player out and we chose Luke and you move from there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I know he's got to go through waivers. We have to see what happens and see how everything works out. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was made and we'll go from there."

Pitchers improve

The Twins could have created space for Marquis by placing lefthander Glen Perkins (forearm) or righthander Nick Blackburn (shoulder) on the disabled list, but both pitchers rallied.

Perkins was examined by team physician Dr. Dan Buss on Wednesday morning, threw a 40-pitch bullpen session and then hopped on a flight for the Big Apple to rejoin the team. Perkins reported soreness after his outing Sunday, during which he gave up three runs to Texas.

"He had a good throwing session," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said.

Blackburn left his start Saturday because of cramping in his shoulder. He has spent the time since stretching the arm and working the soreness out in the area. He said he made a big improvement over the last couple days.

He played catch in the outfield before Wednesday's game and felt really good.

"Originally, I couldn't move my arm out away from my body," Blackburn said. "The trainers were trying to figure out what it could possibly be but it's something they've never seen and I've never dealt with it. It's like it cramped up or spasmed. But like I said, it felt great."

He will throw a light bullpen session Friday and a full bullpen session Sunday. Then he will return to the rotation Tuesday against Boston. He is still unsure of the cause of the soreness.

"Every day is an improvement and a drastic change," he said. "So it's good. It's been a very weird couple days. It's always weird not to have any pain but not be able to do anything. I'm highly confused by the whole situation."

With Blackburn returning to the rotation, Anthony Swarzak is expected to return to the bullpen.


• Gardenhire wanted Sean Burroughs to get some at-bats, so he started at third base instead of Danny Valencia. Burroughs went 1-for-4 with an RBI single.

• Class AAA Rochester reliever Carlos Gutierrez, the Twins' first-round pick in 2008, was put on the disabled list because of labrum irritation and will head to Fort Myers, Fla., for rehabilitation.

• Despite struggling Tuesday and admitting his frustration to Gardenhire, Francisco Liriano is scheduled to make his next start Sunday at Tampa Bay.