Gardy indicates Mauer nearing return to lineup

Gardy indicates Mauer nearing return to lineup

DETROIT -- Joe Mauer was held out of the starting lineup for a fifth straight game on Friday against the Tigers, but he is getting closer to making a return, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

Mauer, who hasn't played since experiencing lower back spasms during Sunday's game against the Orioles, was scheduled to take soft toss on the field before the game, but the tarp was on the field because of light rain at Comerica Park. So Mauer had to settle with hitting in the batting cages, and didn't have any issues.

"He took some swings in the cage and soft toss and all that stuff, and did OK," Gardenhire said. "We had early BP set up, but it just didn't work out."

Gardenhire said the Twins remain hopeful Mauer could return by Saturday or Sunday as a designated hitter. The Twins are in a waiting game, as they don't want to place him on the 15-day disabled list just yet because it means he wouldn't be eligible to return until May 20 against the Padres.

"I would love to have him, but if he's not healthy, he's not going to help us," Gardenhire said. "We're trying to make a decision here and give him every bit of time we can because if he is healthy and can come back Saturday or Sunday, it's better than the DL because then he'd be out most of next week, too. So, we're trying to do that. We're getting by, but you can only do that so long."

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.