Twins target post all-star break return for Mitch Garver

It’s been more than a month since Mitch Garver last crouched down behind home plate to catch, and the last time he did, it was painful.

Since being struck by a foul ball in the groin, which required emergency surgery in Baltimore, Garver has been slowly but steadily progressing, though the Twins and their catcher are being careful not to move too quickly with an injury of this nature.

And now Garver, who has been sprinting as well as hitting with no restrictions and throwing with no restrictions, is nearly ready to get back behind the plate.

While manager Rocco Baldelli said Garver’s return is likely going to come after the all-star break, Garver said he would likely start catching off a machine this week and would potentially even be ready to catch a bullpen by the end of the week.

“From that point on, it’s just kind of making sure you’re comfortable before you’re getting into a situation that you can’t control, a game situation,” Garver said.

And the Twins are going to make certain that Garver is 100 percent healed before activating him from the injured list and putting him back behind the plate where he’d be exposed, once again, to all the nicks and bruises that come with being a catcher.

“If he has another ball to the cup or has to deal with anything like that, we need to feel OK that he can handle something like this in addition to just being able to swing and throw and anything like that,” Baldelli said. “What he’s dealt with has the potential to be a very serious issue if not handled properly.”

And even though Garver is itching to get back on the field, he acknowledged that taking his return “a little bit slower” and taking it a day at a time is the most prudent way to go.

“It’s so hard to tell how quick things are going to go and obviously with this injury, it’s a little bit different than a sprained ankle or something,” Garver said. “This is something that lasts forever. This is like a concussion or something that can affect the rest of your life, so we chose to take it a little bit slower than normal.”

DONALDSON, CRUZ OUT

For the second straight day, the Twins’ lineup was missing much of its thump.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who left Saturday’s game early with right hamstring tightness, was again out of the lineup Monday. Baldelli said once again that Donaldson is feeling pretty good and the Twins consider this to be a day-to-day issue.

Nelson Cruz, meanwhile, has been sidelined by neck stiffness that Baldelli said came on as a result of “coughing violently.” Cruz, he said, has been playing with a “really bad chest cold for probably weeks now” that has left him constantly coughing. Cruz has been spotted wearing blue disposable masks in the dugout and on the field over the course of the past couple weeks.

The Twins sent him to the doctor Monday, Baldelli said. He was at the park by game time, when the Twins honored him before the game as their lone all-star representative.

BUXTON SIGHTING

It’s been two weeks since Byron Buxton was hit on his left hand with a pitch, suffering a boxer’s fracture. The Twins’ center fielder still has not done much activity besides aerobic conditioning.

But he was spotted in the batting cage at Target Field on Monday, taking one-handed swings off the tee in a video posted to Twitter by Dustin Morse, Twins senior director of communications. With his left hand, which is still in a splint, held close to his chest, Buxton gripped a bat with his right hand and swung away.

“With the hand and that arm, he’s been very limited as far as what he can do,” Baldelli said. “As far as that hand, it’s going to be a slow ordeal for him to start doing anything more than just moving his arm around or potentially manuals or anything like that. It has to heal first. He’s not supposed to be taking that splint off at all.”

BRIEFLY

Monday’s game was the first time that Target Field had opened up to 100 percent capacity, though actual attendance fell far short of that. … Baldelli said outfielder Rob Refsnyder (hamstring) has been participating in “a lot of baseball activity” and has been sprinting. … Matt Shoemaker has cleared waivers and has accepted an assignment to Triple-A St. Paul.

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