With knee feeling better, Willingham starts in left

With knee feeling better, Willingham starts in left

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's top priority before Thursday's game was to check with Josh Willingham to see how his left knee was feeling.

Willingham had a cortisone shot in knee on Saturday night, and he returned to left field on Tuesday, only to still feel some discomfort, forcing him to start at designated hitter on Wednesday.

But with Joe Mauer serving as the DH on Thursday with Ryan Doumit getting the start at catcher, Gardenhire wanted to see if Willingham could play left. The manager was relieved to hear Willingham was feeling much better, especially because he wanted his right-handed bat in the lineup against left-hander John Danks.

"Hammer came in feeling great and said he was feeling ready to go," Gardenhire said. "When I got here today, that was my first priority. With a left-hander out there, it's nice he wanted to run out there."

With another lefty on the mound for the White Sox, Gardenhire also kept Brian Dozier in the leadoff spot on Thursday. Dozier made his first start as the club's leadoff hitter since May 20 on Wednesday, and he went 1-for-2 with a three-run homer and two walks.

"It worked yesterday," Gardenhire said. "He put one in the seats, so I thought I might as well run him back out there."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.