Notes: Miller down, Tiffee up

Notes: Miller down, Tiffee up

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer's rehabilitated left knee has held up to the physical demands of the job through the first month of the season. And manager Ron Gardenhire has sought increased flexibility for his bench.

Therefore, the Twins' need to carry four catchers on the roster ended Wednesday. After he cleared waivers, extra catcher Corky Miller was sent outright to Triple-A Rochester and third baseman Terry Tiffee was recalled.

Miller, who was 0-for-12 in five games with Minnesota, accepted the assignment and will report to the Red Wings.

"We kept him as long as we could," Gardenhire said.

The Twins already have Mike Redmond and emergency catcher Matthew LeCroy, but kept Miller on their 25-man roster out of camp in case Mauer's surgically repaired knee had a setback. Miller was out of Minor League options and the organization feared he might have been claimed off waivers.

Clearly the club was less concerned than it had been about Mauer's ability to play every day. So was Mauer.

"I'm not too worried about [the knee]," Mauer said. "I just have to keep up with it. I may need a day off here and there, but nothing to get worried about."

With a lengthy stretch of two night games followed by a day game in the schedule, Mauer will get ample chances to rest if he needs it. The first opportunity to start four times in a row won't come until May 23-27, when the Twins have all night games at Cleveland.

Tiffee was the final cut in spring when the club decided to go with Miller. He's already had one callup this season, when Justin Morneau went on the disabled list, and batted .280 with one homer and six RBIs in eight games.

Because of the numbers crunch on the roster, the switch-hitting Tiffee had to go back to Rochester when Morneau was activated April 22. The club has lacked anyone on its bench that can hit left-handed.

"We can use him in a lot of roles, a lot of pinch-hit roles," Gardenhire said. "That makes our bench even stronger."

Tiffee wasn't scheduled to arrive until after the start of Wednesday's game against the Indians.

Lohse ready: For good reason, Twins right-hander Kyle Lohse appeared relaxed back in the clubhouse after he tested his strained shoulder in the bullpen Wednesday.

There were no problems in the session that lasted nearly 15 minutes. Lohse will be able to make his next scheduled start Saturday at Tampa Bay.

"A load off my shoulders," Lohse said. "I threw all of my pitches. They all felt good. It was real encouraging."

Lohse left his previous start Thursday at Kansas City with shoulder tightness and had his next turn pushed back. He said he began a new stretching program with trainers, which has given him more flexibility.

"He is able to reach out and let it go even better," Gardenhire said. "That's a good sign."

Rookie Scott Baker, who was called up from Rochester on Monday as protection in case Lohse couldn't start, will work out of the bullpen and be ready for potential spot starts.

Surgery date: Twins reliever Grant Balfour's appointment for right elbow surgery has been set. Balfour will have ligament replacement, or Tommy John surgery performed May 13 in Cincinnati by Reds orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tim Kremchek.

Balfour was expected to be sidelined 9-12 months, but was optimistic about returning in 2006.

"I should be able to pitch in games at Spring Training," Balfour said.

Coming up: Minnesota concludes its three-game series with Cleveland on Thursday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Brad Radke will make the start against lefty C.C. Sabathia.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.