Notes: Punto to undergo MRI

Notes: Punto to undergo MRI

MINNEAPOLIS -- If manager Ron Gardenhire's hunch is right, Jeff Cirillo and Rondell White are about to have company on the disabled list for the Twins.

Gardenhire said third baseman Nick Punto sprained an ankle fielding ground balls in batting practice on Saturday, but told no one about it until he reported to the Metrodome in discomfort on Sunday.

"He felt stupid about it," Gardenhire said.

Punto will go for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test early Monday, and Gardenhire said the Twins' medical staff suspects he will need a DL stint to recover.

"It's not something we're looking forward to," Gardenhire said.

Third base is one of the thinnest positions in the Twins' organization. Gardenhire said there is no Major League-ready third baseman at Triple-A Rochester. Luis Rodriguez started at third the last two days, but rookie backup Alexi Casilla has little experience at that position. That leaves Minor League utility players like Tommy Watkins and Glenn Williams.

Asked what the Twins will do now, Gardenhire grabbed a large coin off his desk and flipped it.

"We're not real deep there," he said. "It's something to be discussed."

Punto, who was not available for comment after Sunday's game, hasn't hit much in the early going (.132, 5-for-38). But Punto won the job last year for his glovework, which Gardenhire rated as Gold Glove-caliber earlier this week.

Tyner time: Jason Tyner's three hits and near home run Saturday night earned him another start Sunday, as he joined Gardenhire's rotating temp service in left field. Tyner, Josh Rabe and Jason Kubel have all drawn left-field starts in this series with the Devil Rays while Rondell White sits on the disabled list with a right calf strain.

The freckle-faced Tyner's 1,068 career at-bats going into Sunday are the most of any active Major Leaguer who has never homered, and he handles questions about his lack of power with good-natured humor. So the Twins took notice when Tyner's deep drive in the seventh inning Saturday hit the baggie in right center, about 10 feet from the top.

"It's not frustrating," Tyner said. "I'm a lucky guy to get 1,100 at-bats in the big leagues without hitting one. If I don't play in the Metrodome, I would have had one [Saturday]."

True. The 23-foot-high baggie, running from the foul pole into right-center, is the biggest deterrent to Tyner going deep here. He remains convinced that when homer No. 1 comes, it will be on the road. And he does believe it will come, thanks to the diligent work he's put in with hitting coach Joe Vavra.

"I'm not the same guy I was for my first 800 at-bats," said Tyner of a span from 2000-05, when he played parts of Major League seasons with the Mets, Devil Rays and Twins. "I didn't know how to turn on a ball.

"I think I'll hit a couple of home runs this year. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I feel like I will."

If he hits even one, Gardenhire promises to wear a Texas A&M Aggies sweatshirt, honoring a bet Tyner made with him last year. Gardenhire went to the University of Texas, and for a Longhorn, even saying "Aggie" in any context except an Aggie joke would be painful. Tyner said this spring, in a game against the Reds in Sarasota, Gardenhire openly rooted for a ball Tyner hit deep to not go out; it hit the fence.

"My teammates want me to hit a home run, but I don't think my manager does," a grinning Tyner said.

No Joe: Mike Redmond caught Sunday as Gardenhire gave Joe Mauer the day off after a night game. Mauer made a pregame appearance to receive his silver bat as American League batting champion to wrap up the Twins' awards weekend. Rod Carew and Tony Oliva, who won 10 batting titles between them for the Twins, were on hand for the ceremony.

Mauer and Justin Morneau also received their Silver Slugger awards.

The promotion, through all four days of the Tampa Bay series, helped attract bigger crowds than the Twins otherwise could have expected. In Tampa Bay's first nine seasons in the American League, Twins-Devil Rays games at the Dome averaged 16,928, 22nd out of 28 franchises that have played here. The first three games of this series averaged 26,307, and Sunday's crowd of 27,024 made for an average of 26,486.

Free wheeling: Torii Hunter says his left ankle is finally healthy after two years of injury problems. The best evidence of that is what Hunter has done on the bases lately, stealing second Friday night and third on Saturday. Hunter had four of the Twins' 11 stolen bases going into Sunday, tying him with Kenny Lofton of Texas for the American League lead.

Two years ago, Hunter was more than two-thirds of the way toward his avowed goal of 30 steals (he had 23 in 98 games) when he broke his left ankle July 30 at Fenway Park. The 23 remains his career high, matching his total from 2002. He had 12 last year.

Coming up: After an off-day Monday, the Twins face the Mariners in Seattle on Tuesday. Right-hander Ramon Ortiz gets the nod against Seattle righty Jeff Weaver at 9:05 p.m. CT.

Pat Borzi is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.