MINNEAPOLIS -- When Jason Kubel began the year with the Twins, he played with a bit of worry, knowing that his spot was always on the line. But that's something he was trying to change as he rejoined the club on Tuesday. "There was always a thought in the back of my mind that whenever [Ruben] Sierra comes back, I'm gone," Kubel said of his first stint with the team. "It's kind of the same situation now, but I feel a lot better now about the way I've been playing." It's a similar circumstance, because once again Kubel will be filling in for an injured player as he replaces Shannon Stewart, whose injury to his left foot put him on the 15-day DL. This time, though, Kubel is trying to take a completely different approach.
"I'm just going to try to relax," Kubel said. "I pretty much know what's going to be happening, so I just play how I can." One of the reasons behind the Twins' decision to send Kubel back to Triple-A Rochester upon Sierra's return was the chance for Kubel to get consistent at-bats and playing time in the outfield. After Kubel missed all of last season due to a knee injury, the feeling was that it would aid him to play more frequently. Kubel hit just .188 in seven games with the Twins, but improved those numbers with the Red Wings as he hit .283 with seven doubles, two triples, four homers and 22 RBIs in 30 games. He also spent a lot of time playing defense in right field. "I got a lot of at-bats down there, so I feel better about myself," Kubel said. "And I feel like I'm ready now to try and show them that I'm ready to play this time, every day." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he will likely use Kubel and Lew Ford as a platoon in left field while also mixing in Rondell White at the position as well. Left field isn't a spot that Kubel has seen a lot of time at over his career, but he believes that he can play there just fine. "It's not a big difference," Kubel said of moving from right. "I haven't done it in a while but I've done it before and it wasn't an issue back then either." Gardenhire started Ford in left on Tuesday with left-handed starter Cliff Lee going for Cleveland. With four of the last six games coming against southpaw starters, the Twins have seen their fair share of lefties over the past week. That continues in this two-game Cleveland series as another lefty will start on Wednesday when C.C. Sabathia takes the mound. Still, Gardenhire made it clear that Kubel will not spend the entire time on the bench. "He's going to play. We've got a guy that's gone down, a very good guy, leadoff hitter for us, so we filled the hole with the best player -- and Kubel is one of the best players." Foot frustrations: After Stewart was forced to rest this weekend with his sore heel, he made it clear that he didn't want to go on the DL. But when the Twins left fielder learned of the tear to his the plantar fascia in that heel, his feelings became quite different. "Overall, it's probably the best thing," Stewart said of the move. "I'm just disappointed in the whole thing because it seems like what happens to my right foot, happens to my left foot. It's just one of those weird, freakish-type deals." When the doctors diagnosed the tear from the MRI they performed Monday, they told Stewart that it looked to be a recent injury. The left fielder believes that it could have happened in the team's series at Detroit. Though Stewart said the heel has been bothering him since the start of Spring Training when he was diagnosed with a heel bruise, he said the pain worsened while playing against the Tigers and got to an almost unbearable level by the game in Milwaukee. The tear is a similar injury to what Stewart suffered in 2004 in his right foot, but this pain wasn't immediate as with the other one. "Maybe I shouldn't have played through it, I don't know," Stewart said. "But it was diagnosed as something I thought I could deal with. Now, I'll just have to rehab and get back out there again." Stewart believes the tear will have to heal before he can return, but he is hopeful he will be able to play June 4, the day he is available to come off the DL. "I'm optimistic that it will be short," Stewart said. Mending quickly: Sierra's rehabilitation for his ruptured left-bicep tendon seems to be going along better than expected. Gardenhire and Sierra talked for awhile during the team's batting practice on Tuesday, and the feeling is Sierra is almost ready to start taking BP. "He's ahead of the pace," Gardenhire said. "He's kind of chomping at the bit to get going again." But the Twins skipper isn't quite so eager to see that happen just yet as he's concerned the progress is moving along a little too quickly. "I think we'll have to slow the pace down," Gardenhire said. "We want him to go as good as he possibly can, but we also don't want to kill him before he comes back." Open spot filled: The Twins had held Saturday's starting spot up on a silver platter as a sort of reward for whichever pitcher they believed earned the chance at the spot. The waiting game is now over, as it was announced that Boof Bonser will start at home Saturday against the Mariners. The news wasn't much of a surprise, as Bonser delivered a quality start in his Major League debut and also became the first Twins pitcher to record eight strikeouts in his first outing. The other likely candidate for the spot was Scott Baker, who will now start Tuesday on the road against the Angels. Baker will throw a side session this week but could be available for this series against the Indians out of the bullpen. But that's a luxury that Gardenhire doesn't expect to use. "He'll be out there, but I don't know how much I'd go to him unless it's in emergency situations," Gardenhire said. Coming up: The Twins close out their two-game series against Cleveland on Wednesday with a 12:05 p.m. CT game. Brad Radke (4-5, 7.20 ERA) will get the start for Minnesota and face off against the Indians' ace C.C. Sabathia (3-1, 1.95 ERA).
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.