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Notes: Morneau returns to the lineup

Notes: Morneau returns to the lineup

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau was back in the Twins lineup on Thursday, batting fifth in the order as the designated hitter.

It's the first playing action Morneau has seen since suffering a bruised right lung in a collision with Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo on Friday night in Miami.

Morneau arrived at the ballpark early on Thursday morning and promptly headed to manager Ron Gardenhire's office to talk about the prospect of him playing. The decision was to have Morneau take batting practice and do some running to see if he was indeed feeling good enough to return to the lineup.

Gardenhire threw batting practice on the field to a small group that included Morneau, Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer. After the session, the decision was made to let Morneau go ahead and play.

"He wants to play," Gardenhire said. "I talked to the doctors and trainers, and they said he could go as soon as he wanted to get out there, so he's playing."

The plan now is to have Morneau start at designated hitter for three games in Detroit, as well. After that series, Gardenhire said the club will see if Morneau is ready to play first base.

For Morneau, the desire to get back in the lineup was helped by doctors telling him that he was fine to return. While Morneau said he's still experiencing some tightness in his chest muscles, he felt fine swinging the bat and said he was ready to go.

"I can deal with the soreness, now that the doctors told me I can't do any more damage," Morneau said.

Returning to first base is the ultimate goal for Morneau, but he said he's just happy to be back in the lineup.

"DHing is the best thing for me right now," Morneau said. "It helps me to avoid collisions, in case someone runs into me at first or I have to dive for balls. This allows me not to even have to think about any of that."

Two-spot: The second spot in the Twins order has been one of the club's more unstable positions.

But recently, Jason Bartlett has taken over the spot with some success. Bartlett is hitting .333 (13-for-39) with three doubles and four RBIs in the No. 2 hole.

Bartlett has provided the type of speed and presence on the basepaths that the Twins have been seeking. Bartlett is a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen bases this season, setting a new career high (10 stolen bases in '06). And Bartlett has started to show the form that the club had hoped he would develop.

Twins first-base coach Jerry White certainly has seen a change in Bartlett recently, noting the initiative the shortstop showed on a double steal in Wednesday's loss.

"He's got that instinct in him now," White said. "There is something in his eyes that I see on the basepaths that I haven't seen before."

"I always felt comfortable stealing, it was just a matter of just doing it," Bartlett said. "And really, not being afraid to be thrown out. That's the difference."

White expects to see Bartlett's steals increase as his on-base percentage increases. The team has been working with Bartlett on his bunting technique to help raise his OBP.

"We're trying to get him to bunt, take the walks, and with that, the on-base percentage will go up," White said. "You can see it slowly getting better. Really, his whole game is coming along."

Move coming: The Twins expect to make a roster move following Thursday's game to call up another pitcher, bringing the team's number of pitchers back to 12.

It's unclear which position player will likely be sent down, but with catchers Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond both healthy, it seems it could be third-string catcher Chris Heintz who goes.

Twins tidbits: Glen Perkins has advanced to throwing a light tennis shoe session. The pitcher is still throwing from the bottom of the mound and still has quite a way to go before he will be close to returning. ... Luis Castillo got the day off on Thursday due to sore knees. It's a common occurrence for the second baseman in day games after night games. Nick Punto started at second in his place with Luis Rodriguez playing third.

Triple-A All-Stars: The roster for the International League All-Star Game was announced Wednesday, and four Triple-A Rochester players were included.

Second baseman Matt Tolbert earned a starting spot while pitchers Matt Garza and Bobby Korecky and catcher Jose Morales were named as reserves. The game will take place on July 11 in Albuquerque with the International League taking on the Pacific Coast All-Star team.

Coming up: The Twins head to Detroit on Friday for the start of a 10-day, 11-game road trip. The first of three games against the Tigers will take place on Friday night. Twins ace Johan Santana (8-6, 2.83) and Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander (9-2, 2.78) will square off in the 6:05 p.m. CT start.

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

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