Series preview: Minnesota Twins

Left fielder Delmon Young was scheduled to have an MRI on his sore ribs Friday morning, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
   
Young missed his third consecutive game in Baltimore on Thursday. He missed the first two because of the rib ailment and the flu, but by Thursday the flu had subsided.
   
Gardenhire said Young’s ribs felt better by Thursday but that the outfielder requested an MRI just to be safe, and the Twins agreed it was important. If the MRI shows something that might need more than a few days to heal, Gardenhire said the team likely would make a roster move, placing Young on the disabled list and calling up a replacement from the minor leagues.
   
Baseball has seen a rash of oblique strains early this season, but Gardenhire said he doesn’t believe Young’s issue is a pulled oblique muscle but rather “tissue between the ribs.” The danger in playing with soreness in the ribs or side is that one wrong swing could set a player back for weeks.
   
Young has been lifting weights and doing core-focused exercises the last few days, but Gardenhire said none of that can take the place of actual swinging.
   
“Everything seems to be going good,” Gardenhire said before the Twins’ 3-1 win over the Orioles. “But once you get out there swinging a little bit and you take a couple of rips, I think he wants to be positive that there’s not anything there, and we do, too.”

NOTES, QUOTES
   
–RHP Scott Baker struck out nine batters in seven shutout innings Thursday against the Orioles, holding Baltimore to hour hits in Minnesota’s 3-1 win. After giving up four runs in each of his first two starts and pitching six and five innings in those outings, Baker has made it through seven in each of his last two. On April 16 in Tampa Bay, he gave up just one run on four hits while striking out six, and he left with a 3-1 lead that the bullpen blew.
   
“I guess the results,” Baker said when asked the difference between his first two starts and his last two. “I’ve felt the same. Making some pitches when I need to, staying aggressive in the zone and just overall, just feel better with the mechanics, allowing myself to finish pitches, and mentally I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot right now.”
   
–DH Jim Thome hit his second home run of the season Thursday night in Baltimore, giving him 591 homers in his career. He also drove in a run with a sixth-inning single. Like many Twins players, Thome has been off to a slow start this season.
   
“He’s never that far off,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s why you have almost 600 home runs.”
   
–RF Michael Cuddyer hit his second home run in as many days, giving him two RBI this season.
   
“Yeah, 78 more home runs and he’ll have 80 RBI for the year,” manager Ron Gardenhire joked. “That’s what you guys (reporters) have been saying. You talk about RBI, so I just told him that tonight, if he hits 78 more home runs he’ll have 80 RBI.”
   
–1B Justin Morneau, still dealing with the flu, required two more bags of intravenous fluids Thursday night after getting three bags of IV fluids on Monday. Morneau was out of the lineup for the fifth straight day Thursday, and manager Ron Gardenhire was unsure when the first baseman might return. Morneau was scheduled to see the Twins’ doctors Friday, Gardenhire said.
   
–LHP Brian Duensing isn’t sure why the Twins, generally a very stingy team when it comes to walks, have already walked 63 batters this season, fourth in the American League, but he has a theory. He said he believes teams are taking a more aggressive approach early in counts because they expect Twins pitchers to throw strikes. And when Minnesota pitchers aren’t throwing strikes, hitters can sit back and be picky with their pitch or otherwise simply walk.
   
The Twins walked 383 batters last year, fewest in all of baseball by 33. This year they are on pace to walk 549 batters.
   
“I don’t know if you can attribute it to it being early. We had spring training,” Duensing said. “It’s not hard to throw strikes. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
   
BY THE NUMBERS: .368 — Michael Cuddyer’s batting average over the outfielder/infielder’s last 10 games (14-for-38). During that time, Cuddyer has three doubles and two home runs.
   
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I know there is a lot of concern in Minnesota about our baseball team. I’ve been hearing through the Internet and through some friends that it’s pretty wild back there about our team really scuffling. I just ask people to relax a little bit, calm down and stay with us. Go shovel the snow out of the yards because we’re coming home. We’re ready to play some ball. … It’s going to be OK. We’ve got a good group here. We’ve got a team that’s proven they can play the game. We just have to get them back on the field. I think we’ll be fine.” — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

ROSTER REPORT
   
MEDICAL WATCH:
   
–1B Justin Morneau (flu) did not play April 17-21. He is day-to-day.
   
–LF Delmon Young (stomach virus/rib soreness) did not play April 19-21. He will go for an MRI exam April 22.
   
–RHP Nick Blackburn (back tightness) left the April 20 game. He said the ailment was minor.
   
–RHP Kevin Slowey (right shoulder bursitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 5. He will begin a rehab assignment in late April, with his second and final minor league start scheduled for April 27.
   
–C Joe Mauer (bilateral leg weakness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 13, and he was diagnosed with a viral infection April 14. The Twins believe that Mauer’s leg weakness is largely the result of the infection. The timetable for his return was uncertain.
   
–2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken left leg) went on the 15-day disabled list April 8. He won’t need surgery or a cast. Manager Ron Gardenhire said the best-case scenario is Nishioka would miss four to six weeks.