Willingham back in lineup, returns to left field
Slugger had missed the past two games due to sore left knee
MINNEAPOLIS -- Josh Willingham, who had a cortisone shot in his left knee on Saturday, returned to the Twins' lineup on Tuesday against the White Sox, starting in left field and batting cleanup.
Willingham missed two straight games with soreness in his left knee on Saturday and Sunday before using Monday's off-day to give his knee another day of rest. But he felt good enough to make his first start in the outfield Tuesday since June 9, as he was reduced to designated hitter duty last week before missing Saturday and Sunday.
"Willingham feels good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So we'll see what happens."
Gardenhire also wanted to give extra rest to Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer after Monday's day off, as Morneau started at DH on Tuesday while Mauer played first base. It marked just the third start of the year for Morneau at DH.
"He's feeling fine," Gardenhire said. "We just talked about how this was a good day. He's played all the way up until. So this was perfect."
It gave Mauer just his fourth start at first base this year with Ryan Doumit getting the start at backstop. Mauer is expected to be back behind the plate on Wednesday.
"He's a good first baseman and it gives him another day off from behind [the plate]," Gardenhire said. "We're going to be in a stretch with a lot of games. So this gives us an opportunity."
Rookie level team's bus involved in fatal crash
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' Rookie level Elizabethton's team bus was involved in a fatal crash early Tuesday in Jacksonville, Fla., but no one on the bus was injured, the club announced Tuesday.
The bus was taking Minor League players and coaches from Fort Myers, Fla., to Elizabethton, Tenn., when a car crossed onto the wrong side of Interstate Highway 295 and struck the bus, authorities said. The driver of the car, Corshane Brown, 28, was killed as a result of the crash, according to the Florida Times-Union.
"It's one of those scary moments," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If you have ever done a lot of traveling on buses like a lot of us have, you know it's out of your control. So it's a scary moment. But it sounds like the bus driver did an incredible job and probably saved a lot of people's lives. So I'm just glad everyone is OK from the baseball team, but I'm sad to say someone lost their life in the crash."
Everyone on the bus was unharmed and a second bus was able to take them safely to Elizabethton. The team, which plays in the Appalachian League, is set to start the season on Thursday.
Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra's son, Tanner, was on the bus, as he was selected by Minnesota in the 30th round of this year's First-Year Player Draft and was assigned to begin his career at Elizabethton.
"He called us at 3:30 in the morning and you never want to get that middle-of-the-night call, but he said he was fine and everyone on the bus was fine," Vavra said. "They had just switched drivers up around Jacksonville. So they were about 15 miles into it with the new driver and they were passing a semi and a car came across the wrong lane at the top of a hill and they had nowhere to go with the semi next to them. So the driver braked and told them to brace themselves. So Tanner said they braced themselves and it felt like hitting a deer. The car went right under the corner at the driver's side."
Hicks making progress, but yet to run bases
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks continues to make progress with his strained left hamstring and was out on the field taking batting practice and catching fly balls before Tuesday's game against the White Sox.
Hicks, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 10, has started to participate in some light running drills, but has yet to run the bases.
"He's just doing his rehab," manager Ron Gardenhire said. He's feeling good. He was out running down fly balls in the outfield and doing fine. He said his leg is feeling better."
There's no timetable for Hicks' return, as he'll need a rehab assignment before he rejoins the Twins, as they want to be cautious with him, given the unpredictable nature of hamstring injuries.
"That's going to be determined," Gardenhire said. "He hasn't run the bases or anything like that yet. But he did take batting practice and has been doing drills with our strength guy. So before we make a decision, he'll have to run the bases for us and we'll have to do a rehab thing. We can't just stick him back in and say his hammy is OK because if something happens, we'll lose all that time."