Spring Training Quick Hits: March 20

Sierra was injured this past weekend.

Here is the latest edition of our Spring Training Quick Hits.

The Twins' plans to open the season with an all-star switch hitter in a key bench role was dealt a blow Sunday when Ruben Sierra injured his right quadriceps fielding a routine grounder in right field.

Sierra, 40, was signed to be the Twins' top left-handed pinch hitter, an occasional outfield backup and insurance at first base (where he has taken grounders despite never playing the position in a big-league game).

Team officials wouldn't speculate on the severity of his injury, but if it turns out Sierra has even a minor pull, that likely means at least a two-week recovery time and almost assures he would open the season on the disabled list.

"For sure it's going to be more than a week," said Sierra, who was hurt when he stepped into a depression in the grass as he reached for a single hit by Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli. "I just need to make sure I work hard now so I can come back sooner."

Although there's not much time to go before the opener, he said he's optimistic about being ready. "I've been out before for two weeks and pinch hit and hit a home run to win the game," he said.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • RHP Carlos Silva made his first start of the spring Sunday and didn't look sharp -- something he attributed to being used as a reliever for Team Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic and the fact he went eight days between appearances. "My body feels good, but I had no command today," said Silva, who said he was unhappy by the decision to use him in relief in the tournament. "It's good to be back. Now you're going to have your mind set for one thing: be ready for the season. I'll be back in my routine. I know I'm going to be ready."

  • OF Ruben Sierra, a non-roster invitee who's in camp on a minor league contract, could open the season on the disabled list after suffering a quadriceps injury Sunday. If he's not ready to open the season, the team is allowed to place him on the minor league DL while he recovers and put off a decision on how to clear a 40-man roster spot for him.

  • 3B/1B Terry Tiffee could be the beneficiary, at least in the short term, if OF Ruben Sierra is forced to the disabled list due to a quadriceps injury. Until that possibility arose, Tiffee appeared unlikely to crack the 25-man roster, even though he's hitting .359 this spring. A switch hitter like Sierra, Tiffee spent part of last season in a role similar to the one Sierra was expected to fill this season -- pinch hitter (particularly from the left side) and backup corner infielder (Sierra is considered a backup only at first base). On the other hand, Tiffee struggled in those roles and spent much of last season in the minors.

  • RHP Juan Rincon continues to be a concern for the Twins, manager Ron Gardenhire said over the weekend when talking about whether there's enough time for the team's top setup reliever to get prepared for the season opener after spending all spring nursing a sore elbow. Rincon, who had bone chips removed from the elbow over the winter, said the muscle discomfort has improved over the past week, and he's scheduled to throw again on the side Monday. He's scheduled for his first Grapefruit League appearance on March 28.

  • LHP Ricky Barrett and RHP Kevin Cameron were reassigned to the Twins' minor league camp.

  • After Sunday's game, manager Ron Gardenhire twice refused to talk with reporters -- an uncharacteristic move for the generally good-natured manager. It's the first time he has declined postgame interviews since he became manager in 2002.
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