Cuddyer in lineup as designated hitter

Cuddyer in lineup as designated hitter

CLEVELAND -- Not every team in playoff contention can get a boost to its lineup in mid-September, but that's exactly what Twins manager Ron Gardenhire felt he got for Monday's series opener against the Indians.

That's because Michael Cuddyer was back in the starting lineup as the club's designated hitter.

"He's one of our better hitters and he's the guy that can be a really big boost for this lineup," Gardenhire said of Cuddyer. "Just having him in the lineup is exciting enough. Now we'll see what happens."

Cuddyer went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the 3-1 loss.

Cuddyer, who was activated from the disabled list on Saturday, had two pinch-hit appearances over the weekend against the Orioles. He went 1-for-2, recording a hit off Baltimore's closer George Sherrill on Sunday.

But while Cuddyer looked good at the plate, Gardenhire had seemed hesitant to use him in anything more than a pinch-hit role due to the lingering pain in the left foot he broke Aug. 8.

Gardenhire said that his biggest concern was whether Cuddyer could re-injure the foot running on the basepaths. But the skipper has been assured that is not a possibility, and so after Sunday's game he started contemplating using Cuddyer as a right-handed-hitting designated hitter.

The Twins faced the first of three straight left-handed starters in this series against the Indians on Monday night, and Cuddyer offers a veteran right-handed hitter to face those lefties.

So after some early discussions with the coaching staff and the trainers Monday afternoon, Gardenhire called Cuddyer into his office to talk about the possibility. His veteran outfielder, who had been campaigning to the trainers to tell the skipper he was ready to play, assured Gardenhire that he could handle running the bases. And thus the decision was made to let Cuddyer hit in the DH spot.

"I was excited, for sure," Cuddyer said of getting the chance to start.

Cuddyer remains unable to run at 100 percent, but Gardenhire said that even now his veteran player can still outrun "a few guys on this team."

Gardenhire pinch-ran for Cuddyer when he recorded his hit on Sunday. So this will be the first big test that Cuddyer will have in running the bases, but he didn't seem concerned about it.

"It's just pain, and playing through the pain is fine," Cuddyer said. "I don't have to be apprehensive. If you are coming back from a ligament or something, you are a little concerned because you don't know if you are going to rip it or tear it again. This is just pain, and I know that I'm not going to break it again."

The start marks Cuddyer's first since June 27. Although Cuddyer injured the foot in August, it came during a Minor League rehabilitation stint after he missed over a month with a left finger injury.

The extra time that Cuddyer has missed has appeared to help his finger heal as well. Gardenhire said that Cuddyer has looked to be on the ball in every hitting session he's watched, and he's looking more like the hitter the club has seen in previous seasons before the injuries.

"When he went down to rehab, I still don't think he was 100 percent with his hand," Gardenhire said. "There was still an issue there. I don't think it's an issue anymore."

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