BOSTON – He has played all but five games this season, including all 18 innings Wednesday, and his 40th birthday is six weeks away. So Torii Hunter needed to conserve his energy Thursday, his manager told him.
“I told him in [batting practice] he was going to hit a couple [home runs] today,” Paul Molitor said after the Twins’ 8-4 victory over the Red Sox. “I told him, ‘Let’s take it easy on your legs. Hit a couple over the wall, maybe strike out or walk, something so you don’t have to run too much today. But he ended up having to run a lot.”
That’s what a three-hit day will do. And no hit was bigger than Hunter’s three-run home run in the fifth inning, a blow that cut a 4-0 deficit to 4-3 with one wayward knuckleball from Boston starter Steven Wright. “Torii’s blow was big to give us some hope,” Molitor said. “It got us back in the game.”
It also made him a member of a select club in Twins history. That blast onto a billboard atop the Green Monster was Hunter’s 200th in a Twins uniform, making him the seventh player ever to reach that milestone.
“It means a lot. Two hundred with the Twins, that’s longevity,” said Hunter, who hit another 105 with the Angels and 34 with the Tigers. “I’m honored. … One behind [Gary] Gaetti, that’s what they told me. ‘The Rat’ was a really good player here.”
So was Kirby Puckett, who had 207 homers during his Hall of Fame career. “Kirby Puckett, my hero. We’ll see what happens,” Hunter said. “All I really care about is wins. I don’t care about the individual goals. If they come, I have to celebrate them, but I really want to celebrate wins.”
Nolasco back on DL
Ricky Nolasco went to the bullpen around noon, warmed up with some long toss in the outfield, then took the mound to test his sore right ankle.
“It didn’t last long,” Molitor said.
Before Nolasco had thrown a dozen pitches, Molitor’s mind was made up: The righthander is headed to the disabled list for the second time this season. And this one, they don’t know how much time it will cost him.
“We tried to hold out some optimism,” Molitor said, and Nolasco underwent a barrage of treatment for three days, hoping to stay off the DL. “When he needed to push off the rubber, you could see him start to grimace a little bit. … The more he tried to do, the more obvious it became that he wasn’t ready.”
Nolasco sounded depressed over the lingering injury.
“I thought it was getting better. I can walk on it, but it’s just that certain angle in there [when he pushes off the rubber], that’s just shooting pain,” Nolasco said. “I threw eight, 10 pitches and had to stop. It’s still killing me.”
He will undergo a CT scan Friday. The injury is an impingement that occurs when he strides, with his ankle bone striking a small piece of bone that doctors believe might have been the result of a long-ago injury.
• Tommy Milone, who pitched five innings vs. Boston and gave up four runs (two earned), will remain in the rotation for now. The Twins will also need a starter against the Brewers on Saturday, and Molitor said it’s likely to be righthanded reliever J.R. Graham, a converted starter who threw 60 pitches against Toronto on Sunday.
• Royals manager Ned Yost invited Molitor to be part of his AL coaching staff at next month’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati, but Molitor declined the honor to “recharge the brain a little bit,” he said.