FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twins infielder Luke Hughes played Sunday for the first time since straining his right shoulder while playing winter ball in his native Australia. While Hughes went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, he said everything felt good with his shoulder one day later.
“It was awesome,” Hughes said. “A good bit of weight off the shoulders a little bit, to know I can get through it without feeling it at all. It was good.”
Hughes was back in Minnesota’s lineup Monday against Boston as the Twins’ designated hitter. He batted seventh in the lineup.
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With the shoulder still not 100 percent, though, Hughes hasn’t been able to play in the field yet. But he said Monday that he’s hopeful to return to the infield soon.
“I’m kind of hoping in the next couple days I should be alright to fully be ready to go,” said Hughes, who batted .223 in 96 games for the Twins lat season. “I’m thinking the next couple days hopefully if everything keeps continuing going the way it is, there’s no reason why I can’t be back on the field.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he’s currently limited by only being able to pencil Hughes into the lineup as a DH.
“I’ve got to keep writing lineups out there. That makes it a little sticker because I’d like to be able to put him out there with a glove, but I can’t do that,” Gardenhire said. “So I’ll get my chances every time I can and put him out there, but I can’t punish everybody else because he can only DH, you know what I mean? So I’ll get him at-bats as best as I can right now until he can get out there and play defense.”
While hindsight is 20/20, Hughes said the shoulder injury has caused him to ponder whether he’ll play winter ball next offseason. As much as Hughes has enjoyed playing for his hometown Perth Heat, he knows his major league career is more important.
“I’ve already started thinking about it. I had a bit of a chat with my dad after it happened,” Hughes said. “It’s tough because I love playing down there. I love playing with the guys. … I get to play in front of my friends and family, which is fantastic. But I’m definitely going to have to sit down and think about it this offseason, whether or not it’s worth playing or not playing.”
Doumit makes start in LF: When the Twins signed veteran Ryan Doumit as a free agent this offseason, one of the things that appealed to them was his versatility. During his seven-year career with the Pirates, Doumit played catcher, first base and right field. But he’d never played left field.
Yet that’s where he found himself in Monday’s game against Boston. Gardenhire added that Doumit would likely catch starter Scott Baker in Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay.
“Play left tonight and catch tomorrow, catch one of our starters, Baker, which is a good thing,” Gardenhire said. “He needs to see those guys as we go along as a catcher. He’s seen them in the sides and the bullpens, but it’s good to get in the game and work with one of our starters. He’s going to get looks all around.”
While Doumit has played 32 career games at first base, Gardenhire said he doesn’t count that position as much of an option for Doumit.
“That’s not one of the positions he likes,” Gardenhire said. “We said we were going to give him some work there. I’m not ready to put him in a game there. He really hasn’t done much first base.”
Chang okay after getting kneed in jaw: Twins infielder Ray Chang was kneed in the jaw during a game Sunday against Boston. As he held a bag full of ice in Minnesota’s clubhouse prior to Monday’s game, Chang told reporters that he felt OK one day after the injury.
“Thank goodness it wasn’t the head or anything like that,” Chang said. “It was just the jaw that ran right into his knee. … It was weird. I had my hand up to try and protect myself, but somehow he still got me.”
Chang has yet to make his major league debut after seven minor league seasons. He played for Triple-A Rochester in 2011 and batted .269 with 17 RBIs in 42 games. On Sunday, Chang went 1-for-1 with two walks before the injury.
“I was very pleased. It was just good to get out there and get some at-bats and see the ball well and everything,” Chang said. “I feel comfortable at the plate at this stage of spring training. It’s a good thing. Hopefully we can continue that.”