Battle for 1st place: Twins vs. Tigers 6/28

By: Kelly Thesier/

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins and Tigers enter this series separated by just a half-game. And while it’s only the end of June, it’s certainly an important three-game stretch for both clubs since the AL Central lead is on the line.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy was out on the field during batting practice today and said he’s not having any pain in his left wrist. Hardy has missed all but 12 games since suffering a bone bruise in the wrist back on May 4.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday that he hoped for Hardy to go out on a rehab assignment this weekend and perhaps join them for the series opener in Toronto on July 6. Hardy seems to be pushing to head out on his rehab stint a little earlier, giving him an “outside chance” to rejoin the team sometime this weekend during their series with the Rays at Target Field. Gardenhire said they’ll have to wait and see how Hardy does over the next couple days before making that decision.

As expected, Michael Cuddyer is back at third base for the series opener against the Tigers. Gardenhire wanted to get Jim Thome back in the lineup at DH without taking Jason Kubel or Delmon Young out of the lineup.

And Young is batting eighth tonight, providing quite a deep lineup since Young is tied for the team lead in RBIs with Justin Morneau.

Also, Nick Blackburn’s mustache is gone almost as quickly as it arrived. I first noticed that Blackburn had gotten rid of his beard, leaving just a mustache behind on Saturday night when I ran into him near the team hotel in New York. Blackburn said he was just trying out the look, but during a dinner he had with teammate Scott Baker he couldn’t help but laugh whenever he thought of the look. So although some of the media suggested sticking with the ‘stache through his start on Tuesday, Blackburn was clean-shaven on Monday. Still, Francisco Liriano said he might be up for the mustache look so perhaps Carl Pavano won’t be the only Twins starter donning one.

Tigers (40-34)
Austin Jackson, CF
Ryan Raburn, 2B Ramon Santiago, 2B
Magglio Ordonez, RF Ryan Raburn, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Brennan Boesch, LF RF
Carlos Guillen, DH
Brandon Inge, 3B
Gerald Laird, C
Danny Worth, SS
Pitching: RHP Jeremy Bonderman (3-5, 4.20 ERA)


Denard Span, CF
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 3B
Jim Thome, DH
Delmon Young, LF
Punto, SS
Pitching: LHP Francisco Liriano
(6-5, 3.11 ERA)

can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier 

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