MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gave Joe Mauer the option of catching or playing first base against the Indians on Wednesday.
Mauer had the choice to start at his natural position behind the plate or play first base for just the fourth time in his career -- but for the third straight day, including the first game of Monday's doubleheader.
"He said, 'First base sounds great,'" Gardenhire said.
So while the decision to play first base seemed like somewhat of a surprise, Gardenhire said that he was perfectly fine with the decision, because the Twins are in the midst of a stretch in which they play 19 games in 18 days coming out of the All-Star break.
Mauer also could see time at first base again on Thursday -- or at designated hitter -- as right-hander Carl Pavano is scheduled to start against the Tigers and has Drew Butera as his personal backstop.
"He's played every game, every inning, so I kinda expected that," Gardenhire said. "The original plan was to catch him today because Pav is out there tomorrow, but I'm kinda happy he's going to play first base today because it's going to be hot. And it gives him a couple days for him to get away from the squatting. We're playing a lot of games in a row here, so we need his bat in there every day and first base is a breather."
Baker to start against Tigers on Saturday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Scott Baker, on the disabled list retroactive to July 7 with a strained right flexor muscle, threw a bullpen on Wednesday with no problems, and will be activated in time to start Saturday's game against the Tigers.
"It went well," said Baker, who estimated that he threw 50 pitches. "I guess you get to the point where you don't think about it, and that's kind of the point where you want to be. Today, I was working on my mechanics and not thinking about the elbow. So that's always a good feeling. Unless something happens that's unseen, I should be good to go Saturday."
Baker, who has been the club's most reliable starter with a 3.01 ERA and a team-high 104 strikeouts, was originally expected to start the first game of Monday's doubleheader against the Indians, but was scratched and placed on the disabled list on Sunday.
"He felt good," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He didn't feel a thing. So he's on target to go Saturday. So it's a good thing. He felt more confident in this one. The last one he barely felt it, but this one, nothing. So he's good to go."
Fellow right-hander Kevin Slowey, on the DL retroactive to May 21 with an abdominal strain, is also slated to make a rehab start with Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday night.
Jason Kubel is also scheduled to play in that game, as he's expected to play nine innings in right field after serving as designated hitter with the Red Wings on Tuesday. Kubel, out since May 30 with a sprained left foot, could return to action as early as Friday.
"If Kubes is ready for Friday, then that's great," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If he comes today and tomorrow, and he starts putting some good swings out there and his foot goes through it, and they feel it's the right time, then great. But if not, we'll give him a few more days and give him the weekend to have him meet us in Texas."
Center fielder Denard Span, who suffered a concussion on June 3 in a collision with Royals catcher Brayan Pena, is taking a scheduled day off on Wednesday before playing again on Thursday.
"You know Span is going to take a bit longer here," Gardenhire said. "He's played a few days but they're still gauging where he's at. He feels good."
Still ill, Gardy leaves game against Tribe
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is still battling an illness, and left Wednesday's 7-5 win over the Indians during the game, according to bench coach Scott Ullger, who served as manager in his absence.
"He might've stayed a couple innings, but then he went to the doctors," Ullger said. "He wasn't feeling well.
Before the game, Gardenhire said that he added another medication to the ones that he's already taking.
Gardenhire joined the team on the field for early batting practice on Tuesday afternoon, and he admitted before Wednesday's series finale that it probably was not the best decision.
"I screwed up yesterday by going out for that early batting practice and trying to run around a little bit," he said. "I hadn't been out in a while and that really set me back, because I was coughing all through the game and it was not fun."
The illness, which Gardenhire referred to last week as a viral infection in his esophagus, has forced the Twins to play most of the homestand with Gardenhire watching from his office. He even had to leave the ballpark early one night to go home and get some rest.
Gardenhire said that it gets worse as the day goes on.
"I wake up in the morning and feel better; I've got some nice cough medicine that knocks me out," Gardenhire said. "But as the day goes, I just have a really hard time breathing. But yeah, they're trying some more aggressive stuff, if that can be possible with that bag of drugs over there."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.