Mastroianni seeing more playing time

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s Darin Mastroianni hasn’t gotten much playing time since being called up by the Twins in early May, but the speedy outfielder has now been in the starting lineup the last three games.

Mastroianni started in left field for the first game of Saturday’s double-header and was then starting in right field for the nightcap. One day later, Mastroianni was once again in the starting lineup, batting seventh and playing right field for the series finale against the Royals.

In the second game Sunday against Kansas City, Mastroianni exhibited his speed by stealing two bases. He also stole one in the first game and now has five steals in 28 games.

“One of these guys that creates havoc on the base paths,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Mastroianni. “He’s very knowledgeable about pitchers and how they work. He looks on the bench. He’ll come and talk to you all the time about situations. … I like seeing him walk up to the plate. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

There hasn’t been much room for Mastroianni to make his way into the lineup regularly, as Josh Willingham, Denard Span and Ben Revere have solidified their starting spots in left, center and right field, respectively. But Mastroianni was used Sunday to spell Revere for a game and he’s been a weapon off the bench for Gardenhire as either a pinch runner or defensive replacement.

Wednesday, Mastroianni hit his first career home run after entering the game in the eighth inning. If he is able to find more consistent at-bats, Mastroianni could continue to use his speed as a valuable weapon for the Twins.

“When he gets on base, I would put him up there with anybody in this league right now as far as being able to steal bases,” Gardenhire said. “He can fly. His instincts are great. He reads pitchers. He studies it. It would be interesting to see (him get regular at-bats). Who knows. Maybe he’ll work himself into that.”

Thome will make return trip to Target Field: Former Twins slugger Jim Thome has changed teams again, as he was traded Saturday from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Baltimore Orioles. Assuming he stays healthy, Thome will once again return to Target Field when the Orioles come to town for a four-game series July 16-19.

“He kind of likes it here,” Gardenhire said of Thome. “He gets a big smile on his face in that other dugout when he’s walking up to the plate here, and that makes me really nervous. Our fans must love it, though. … He’s going to give some souvenirs — hopefully not too many.”

The 41-year-old Thome spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons in Minnesota, hitting 37 homers and driving in 99 runs. The Twins traded him to Cleveland prior to the trade deadline last season, and he signed with the Phillies as a free agent this offseason.

Thome hit a pair of home runs when Philadelphia came to Target Field last month and was given a standing ovation by Twins fans — who at the time believed it was perhaps Thome’s last hurrah in Minnesota. Sure enough, those same fans will have one more chance to see Thome swing for the fences at the park he made look small over the past few years.

Given his age and health, Thome is no longer an option in the field. In Philadelphia, he was used as a pinch hitter. Now back in the American League, Thome can play every day as Baltimore’s designated hitter.

“I’m honestly happy for him just getting back to the American League,” Gardenhire said. “This is definitely the better side for him, the American League.”

Thome is currently tied with former Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list with 609. He hit No. 600 last season while still a member of the Twins.

Capps likely to go on rehab assignment: Gardenhire said there’s a “good chance” Twins closer Matt Capps could be on a rehab assignment during the upcoming All-Star break, which begins July 9. Capps is currently on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

“There’s a possibility of that,” Gardenhire said of the rehab assignment. “It just depends on if he has any setbacks with his arm leading up to that point when he starts throwing again. He’s working really hard in there, feels good. Now it just depends on his bullpen sessions and how he does.”

Gardenhire said Capps would likely report to Fort Myers, Fla., for the rehab assignment and pitch with the Class-A Fort Myers Miracle for one or two games and then rejoin the Twins after the All-Star break.

Capps, in his eighth season in the majors and third year with the Twins, has appeared in 27 games so far this season. He has recorded 14 saves and has posted an ERA of 3.42.

Jimenez is Minor League Player of the Week: Outfielder Romy Jimenez of the Elizabethton Twins in the Appalachian Rookie League is this week’s Twins Minor League Player of the Week for the week of June 23-29. During that span, the 21-year-old Jimenez hit .450 (9-for-20) while hitting three homers and driving in eight runs in five games.

In nine games this season with Elizabethton, Jimenez is batting .405 with 13 RBI, four homers and 15 hits in 37 at-bats. He was signed by the Twins out of the Dominican Republic in 2009.

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