Notes: Hunter has harsh words

Notes: Hunter has harsh words

DETROIT -- The Twins have been plagued by their fair share of injuries this season.

And often times with injuries comes speculation as to whether players are doing everything they can to play through them.

That issue was brought to the forefront after Torii Hunter voiced his opinions on the subject during a little over 20-minute radio interview on Tuesday with Dan Barreiro of KFAN AM-1130 in the Twin Cities.

When Hunter was asked about what the team needs to do to improve, Hunter had a very direct answer.

"Somebody needs to slap a couple people around and say, 'You've got to play no matter what," Hunter said.

He then added, "If you don't play every day, and you're a good player, then how can you help the team win?"

Hunter was asked if he meant Joe Mauer, referring to speculation earlier this season that Mauer wasn't doing enough to play through leg injuries, and Hunter said he didn't. Rather he pointed to the fact he feels it's a different group of players on the Twins than when he first arrived.

"It's a different breed. I don't know what's going on in the Minor Leagues, but it's different," Hunter said.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hadn't heard the interview, but he said that questioning a player's ability to play hurt is not something that a manager should do.

"A player tells me he's hurt, he's out of the lineup. And if he tells me he can play through it, he plays," Gardenhire said. "That is pretty much black and white -- there is no in between. I can't disrespect a player and say, 'You need to play hurt more.' I can't do that to the clubhouse."

Even though Gardenhire said as a manager he feels it's unacceptable for him to question, he didn't feel the same could be said for teammates.

"Players can get on players all they want to," the skipper said. "They can bust each others' chops -- and they should. Players should step up and say, 'You need to do this and that.'"

Hunter, 32, has been one of the leaders in the Twins' clubhouse during his tenure with the club, and he has been known to speak his mind on numerous occasions.

"There are no muzzles here; guys are able to speak," Gardenhire said. "Torii is one of the guys that should be able to speak."

Regardless of Hunter's feelings, Gardenhire said he isn't too concerned with how his guys have handled the injury issue -- at least recently.

"There are plenty of guys here playing hurt this time of year, believe me," Gardenhire said.

Change in rotation: The umpire crew for the Twins-Tigers series had a change for the final game of the series. Umpire Mike Winters was suspended for the remainder of 2007 regular season by the Commissioner's Office.

Winters was replaced at third base for Wednesday's series finale by Scott Barry.

The suspension came after Winters was involved in a confrontation with Padres outfielder Milton Bradley on Sunday during a contest between Colorado and San Diego. Winters was accused of directing a profanity at Bradley during the dispute.

Crew chief Bruce Froemming declined to comment on the suspension.

Checkup time: There will be a few Twins players who will be spending time in the doctor's office once the 2007 season is finished on Sunday.

Jason Bartlett will undergo an MRI on Monday in the Twin Cities to check on the neck and shoulder issues he's been battling all season. Bartlett also will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., to determine if surgery might be an option.

"I know it's limiting my game a little bit," Bartlett said. "It's frustrating to go out there and know I can do a lot better."

Mauer will undergo a full physical on Monday to determine if he needs hernia surgery. Mauer has been battling a hernia since the middle of the season, while various leg problems, including a sore left hamstring, have hindered him since late August.

It's not the first time the catcher has battled with a hernia. He had surgery to repair one while he was in the Minor Leagues.

Twins tidbits: Carmen Cali is available to pitch after being sidelined with a bruised left thumb. Cali threw bullpen sessions each of the last two days, and he said there is some discomfort but not enough to keep him from pitching. ... Left-hander Dennys Reyes headed to Arizona to begin rehabilitation on his left elbow. ... Tuesday's loss to the Tigers was the Twins' 11th against the club this year, matching a single-season record. The only team Minnesota has more losses against this season is Cleveland (14).

Coming up: The Twins head to Boston for their final four games of the season. Right-hander Boof Bonser (7-12, 5.09 ERA) returns to the rotation in place of injured Scott Baker for Thursday's 6:05 p.m. CT contest. Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett (20-6, 3.14) will try for his Major League-best 21st win of the year.

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