Notes: Liriano throws in spikes

Notes: Liriano throws in spikes

NEW YORK -- The rain in New York on Saturday morning may have played a bit of havoc on the players, who didn't know whether the game would start on time, but it couldn't keep one of the most important things on the Twins' agenda from happening.

In between bouts of rain, Francisco Liriano threw his first bullpen session in spikes since being sidelined on Aug. 7 with pain in his left elbow. The 12-minute session went as expected, with Liriano able to throw all of his pitches, including the slider, close to game-type speeds.

"I feel great," Liriano said. "Everything feels good now, it feels like normal."

Being able to get the session in was a huge bonus for the club, because scratching the session would have made it difficult to make upcoming plans for Liriano.

While the Twins have been hesitant to set a timetable for Liriano's return, a more concrete plan is starting to come into focus.

And much of it depends on Liriano remaining on schedule to pitch for Triple-A Rochester in the International League playoffs, which start this week. The Red Wings earned the Wild Card spot with a 3-0 win on Friday night, marking the club's first postseason bid since 1997. Their first playoff series against Scranton begins on Wednesday in a best-of-five format.

Before that can happen, Liriano will throw to hitters during live batting practice on Wednesday in a simulated game format. That would likely leave him on track to start for the Red Wings as early as Saturday.

"I don't think Rochester would mind that at all," Twins manager Gardenhire said with a chuckle.

Liriano will be on schedule to throw 40 pitches in that first start. Gardenhire said Liriano could make two starts for Rochester if the club advances, but the more likely scenario would have him return to the Twins following that start and be available to throw 60 pitches -- or around five innings -- in the final game of the club's homestand on Sept. 13.

There is still uncertainty about his return, but for now, the news is positive.

"We needed a little bit of good news," Gardenhire said. "So this has been nice."

Seeking offense: With the struggles that the Twins have had offensively over the past few days heading into Saturday's game, Gardenhire decided to mix up his lineup a bit.

One of the most noticeable changes came with Rondell White starting in left field. Jason Tyner has been scuffling a bit at the plate, and Gardenhire thought that giving White a chance to see some time in the field could help ease him along, as well.

"He seems to swing the bat better and feel a lot better when he's playing left," Gardenhire said of White. "He's been talking about it a lot, too."

Adding White to the lineup, along with Phil Nevin at the designated hitter slot, gave the Twins two bats with pop at the bottom of the lineup. The hope was that it would spark some sort of resurgence.

"We're just trying to score right now," Gardenhire said. "We haven't in three or four days."

Catching less: Joe Mauer was behind the plate for Saturday's game, but with day games coming over the next two days, Mauer will likely be the designated hitter in the series finale against the Yankees on Sunday afternoon.

Using his starting catcher as a DH more often is something that Gardenhire is planning on doing in this stretch of 20 straight games.

The wear and tear of the season has slowed Mauer down a bit, and with a third catcher now on the roster in Chris Heintz, Gardenhire feels more comfortable going with Mike Redmond behind the plate and Mauer as the DH.

"I'd like to use him more at DH when we're in this long stretch," Gardenhire said. "And now I can probably do that and not worry about it as much. If he starts swinging and really getting after it, then we'll do that, for sure. We want to keep his bat in there as much as we possibly can."

Wait another day: Luis Castillo remained out of the Twins' lineup on Saturday with a mild right ankle sprain, but Gardenhire said that he was ready to go, if necessary.

The rainy weather factored into the skipper's decision to sit his second baseman another day, and he said that it was better to make sure the ankle is fully ready to go before testing it.

"There's still a little soreness and we're hoping, by [Sunday], everything should be ready to go," Gardenhire said. "This will be a good day to let him have one more day of rest and let him go [Sunday]."

Down on the farm: Double-A New Britain lost both games of a doubleheader to Harrisburg on Friday. The Rock Cats were shut out in a 2-0 loss in Game 1 as Justin Olson allowed two runs on eight hits over six innings. The struggles grew worse in Game 2 in an 8-2 defeat, as left-hander Errol Simonitsch gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits over four innings. ... Dave Winfree went 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored as Class A Fort Myers lost, 6-2, to Sarasota. Just four Miracle players recorded a hit in the loss. ... Alexander Smit gave up three runs on six hits over seven innings with 10 strikeouts as Class A Beloit was held scoreless in a 3-0 loss to Peoria.

Coming up: The Twins will close out their three-game series with the Yankees in a 12:05 p.m. CT start on Sunday. Right-hander Matt Garza (1-3, 5.06) will make his first career start at Yankee Stadium against right-hander Darrell Rasner (0-1, 3.00).

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