Spring Training Quick Hits: March 22

Cuddyer could miss the start of the season.

In this edition of Quick Hits, Michael Cuddyer gets bit by the injury bug, Nick Punto just may win the shortstop job, Liriano is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut, and much more.

Just as the Twins got back all of their missing players from the World Baseball Classic and seemed ready to accelerate toward the end of camp, the injury bug struck.

Even as they took their lone day off of the spring Tuesday, the Twins had Michael Cuddyer, the frontrunner for the starting right field job, examined for an injury suffered in Monday's game. He was diagnosed with a strained abdominal muscle and could be out until at least this weekend -- putting his playing status for the start of the season in jeopardy considering the often lingering nature of such injuries.

"It's nothing serious," general manager Terry Ryan said of Cuddyer's injury. "We'll give him a few days off, then see where we're at."

With so little time left before the end of camp, even a short-term layoff for Cuddyer could open the door for rookie Jason Kubel or Lew Ford to make a case for the right field job. And if Cuddyer winds up on the disabled list, Jason Tyner might have a chance to work his way into the battle for a fourth outfield spot.

And Cuddyer's injury is just one of several the team is dealing with, including a quadriceps pull suffered by reserve Ruben Sierra on Sunday -- an injury also threatening to cause a DL stint.


  • SS Nick Punto has put himself in position to overtake pre-camp favorite Jason Bartlett and win the Opening Day shortstop job if he finishes strong and Bartlett continues to stumble. That's one of the more intriguing position battles to play out as the Twins come out of their lone off day of the spring Tuesday.

  • INF Juan Castro's sprained right wrist is not expected to keep him off the field much of the rest of camp. He's a key backup for a Twins infield that could get thin fast with an injury or two.

  • RHP Juan Rincon, who fared especially well in a side throwing session Monday, is scheduled to ramp up his throwing program Wednesday and could get into a game by the end of the week. He hasn't pitched this spring because of muscle soreness near the right elbow on which he had minor bone-chip surgery over the winter.

  • LHP Dave Gassner has been shut down for the rest of camp and likely at least two weeks beyond that because of a sore left elbow. Gassner, who made his big-league debut last year, is to be re-evaluated after that.

  • LHP Francisco Liriano is scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League appearance Wednesday in a one-inning relief stint. Liriano recently returned from pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He doesn't have much time to battle RHP Scott Baker for a fifth-starter job that looks all but locked up by Baker, but team officials say he has a chance. And despite the front office's wishes to start Liriano in the minors if he's not in the Twins' rotation, manager Ron Gardenhire hints he might try to make a case for opening with Liriano in the bullpen if he proves to be one of the team's 11 best pitchers at the end of camp.
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