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Mastroianni makes first start, bats leadoff

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KANSAS CITY -- Darin Mastroianni sat at his locker Tuesday afternoon and talked about feeling a tinge of excitement. His name was posted in the Twins' starting lineup for the first time this season, and Mastroianni was ready to go full steam ahead.

"I'm ready to play the way I want to play out there, which is fast and running all over the place," said Mastroianni, who started in center field and batted leadoff.

Mastroianni has been recovering from a bruised left ankle, which happened on a foul tip in a Spring Training game back on March 25. Aaron Hicks was thrust into a bench role after starting the first seven games in center.

"It's not going to be 100 percent for awhile, but that doesn't mean I can't play full speed," Mastroianni said. "[The ankle] will be sore after the game and between innings, but it won't affect me on the basepaths or in the outfield."

Before making the Tuesday start, Mastroianni had appeared in five games this season, all coming as a defensive replacement.

"Just getting him in the game and letting him get some at-bats is really important," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We'll give Hicks a little blow. He has fouled about 18 balls off his foot. He was able to go out and get some extra work with Bruno [hitting coach Tom Brunansky], so it works out a couple of different ways."

Gardenhire said he wasn't worried about Mastroianni showing rustiness at the plate.

"He's chomping at the bit," Gardenhire said. "He has a short, quick swing and he's a speed guy. He should be just fine."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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