Notes: Cuddyer nears 100-RBI mark

Notes: Cuddyer nears 100-RBI mark

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Michael Cuddyer had been told at the beginning of the season that he would be the Twins' cleanup hitter chasing 100 RBIs at the start of September, he might have laughed.

It's hard to blame the Twins' starting right fielder, who came out of Spring Training as a bench player in a platoon for the outfield spot with Jason Kubel and Lew Ford. It seemed to be just another setback for Cuddyer, who has seen his fair share of ups and downs.

"I definitely can't say I imagined it," Cuddyer said with a laugh. "I felt like I could, if I was given the opportunity. But seeing the opportunities that were there coming out of Spring Training, it didn't seem like that would happen."

Instead, Cuddyer took the opening in right field and made the spot his. With his comfort in the outfield came more comfort at the plate, as well. Knowing how many chances he had been given at a starting spot over his five years with the Twins, Cuddyer knew he couldn't waste this one.

"After this opportunity came, you didn't know how many more I was going to get," Cuddyer said. "It was one of those that I knew I had to taken advantage of."

Cuddyer certainly has done that, inching closer to 100 RBIs on Wednesday night, when he had his first multihomer game of the season to drive in three runs and bring his season total to 90 RBIs.

The Twins have had just two players reach 100 RBIs over the past eight seasons, and now with Justin Morneau already at 110 RBIs, it appears that the club will have two in the same year.

Morneau is one of a few players who could be mentioned as the MVP of the club this season, but there is little doubt that Cuddyer belongs in the discussion, as well. Playing for a club that couldn't get any consistent production out of the cleanup spot early in the season, Cuddyer has solidified the spot.

"He's really taken to the role and not put too much pressure on himself," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's batting in between two very, very good hitters, and people keep saying, 'Walk this guy to [pitch] to [Cuddyer].' But I think he's proven he can drive in some runs and step up in those situations. Getting close to 100 RBIs, that's not too shabby for a guy that didn't start out in the cleanup spot."

Don't count him out: Brad Radke had heard all the musings about whether he'll be able to get back on the mound this season, and he has his own response for the doubters.

"I plan on it," Radke said of a return. "One way or another, I'll pitch again. That wasn't my last start, in Chicago, that's for sure."

Always known as a strong competitor, it doesn't seem a surprise that Radke would make a guarantee of his return. For all that he has dealt with the last three months, Radke feels there isn't much that could keep him from trying to help get this club to the postseason.

"I know it's not going to heal on its own," Radke said. "Hopefully, it will kind of feel a little better."

The plan for the pitcher now is to rest for a few days to see if that will help get rid of the discomfort that he has been feeling in the shoulder. He will attempt to play catch during the club's series at Tampa Bay to see if the shoulder is ready to pitch again.

"Nothing's worked so far, so we'll try to take a couple days and see if that helps," Radke said.

Versatile Punto: The mild right ankle sprain that Luis Castillo suffered in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's game has forced the Twins to make some adjustments in the infield.

Castillo will be available only in an emergency for Thursday's afternoon game and Gardenhire is still uncertain as to whether Castillo will be able to play in this weekend's series at Yankee Stadium.

"I honestly don't know," Gardenhire said. "A lot depends on how much pain you can handle and how sore it's going to be -- all those things we have to throw in the mix to see where we're at."

In Castillo's absence, Nick Punto will be moved to second base with Luis Rodriguez taking over at third. Despite Punto's tremendous adaptation at third, Gardenhire feels more comfortable with his ability to move in the middle infield, compared with Rodriguez, and is confident in Rodriguez's ability to play third, as well.

The Twins are expected to add one infielder once rosters are expanded on Friday, but as to whether they will make more additions for infield help will depend on how long Castillo is hampered by the ankle injury.

"We haven't changed anything yet," Gardenhire said. "We have to see how many days this is going to be."

Expecting no changes: Thursday marks the date that players must be on the 25-man roster to be eligible for the playoffs.

Gardenhire said the Twins will not call up any players Thursday to qualify them for the postseason, although the Twins still have two spots to play with, due to Shannon Stewart and Francisco Liriano both being on the DL.

"It's etched in stone -- the guys that are here right now," Gardenhire said of the roster. "But we do have some options with the DL guys."

The expectation is that the team would add a position player before the playoffs begin to give the Twins an 11-man pitching staff for the postseason.

Quotable: "We have a young pitching staff that's getting younger into September. That's just where we're at. It's going to be a great learning experience, and all we ask them to do is hold the fort down and give us a great effort of attacking the strike zone, just like they've been doing." -- Gardenhire, on the state of his starting pitching

Down on the farm: Garrett Jones hit his 19th home run of the season as Triple-A Rochester lost, 6-2, at Buffalo on Wednesday night. Starter Jason Miller allowed two runs on three hits over 4 2/3 innings. ... Starter Brian Duensing allowed just one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings, but Double-A New Britain lost, 3-2, to Reading when David Shinskie gave up a walk-off homer in the ninth. ... Erold Andrus went 3-for-5 with four RBIs in Class A Fort Myers' 7-5 win at Clearwater. The Miracle lead the Florida State West League by 1 1/2 games.

Coming up: The Twins head out on a six-game road trip starting in New York on Friday with a 6:05 p.m. CT contest against the Yankees. Carlos Silva (8-12, 6.50) will try to see if he can limit his mistakes as he faces right-hander Cory Lidle (10-9, 4.64).

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