Kepler, Sano return; Gonzalez (ab strain) close

August 30th, 2019

DETROIT -- and returned to the Twins' lineup on Friday. doesn't feel that it will be too long before he, too, will be able to return.

Gonzalez has been sidelined for the last two games with an abdominal strain towards his right side, and he began to do exercises on the area for the first time on Friday, though he did not participate in any on-field activities.

"I know I'm not going to take 10 days to play," Gonzalez said. "I don't know exactly when it's going to be, two or three days, but I'm going to be for sure playing before 10 days."

The 30-year-old Gonzalez was removed from Tuesday's game against the White Sox after originally feeling the strain during batting practice before it became aggravated during the course of the game.

Manager Rocco Baldelli said the Twins' decision not to place Gonzalez on the 10-day injured list in the last three days stemmed from their uncertainty in his recovery timeline, with the possibility that the multi-positional veteran might not need the full 10 days to recover from what they initially described as a "slight" strain.

At this point, with rosters set to expand on Sunday, a stint on the IL likely wouldn't have been needed in any case for Gonzalez.

Baldelli has shied away from wholesale defensive substitutions in blowouts for much of the season in order to give many of his players full days off where possible, but he said he will take advantage of opportunities in September to ease the load when game situations dictate that he can do so, whether it's Gonzalez, who has been banged up for much of the season; Kepler, dealing with flare-ups in his right knee, or several of the Twins' other contributors.

"I think in September, it does give you that opportunity when rosters expand to do different things, to rest guys in different ways," Baldelli said. "Maybe it's not sitting one of our normal starters, but it's getting them off their feet whenever we can, which we don't have the ability to do normally."

Dobnak returns to city where journey began

Perhaps the Utica Unicorns will let Randy Dobnak throw a ceremonial first pitch Sunday, when he plans to make the half-hour drive north from Comerica Park to Jimmy John's Field to attend an evening game at the independent league ballpark where his unlikely journey through professional baseball began.

"I would throw it as hard as I can," Dobnak said with a grin. "Send it to the backstop."

The 24-year-old right-hander pitched in that 4,500-seat stadium as recently as two years ago, after he was undrafted out of Division II Alderson Broaddus University in rural West Virginia. The Unicorns knew to give Dobnak a chance because he had been college teammates with the son of Jim Essian, the Unicorns' manager, who invited Dobnak to pitch on his team.

Dobnak used that experience as a launching point to become the only alumnus of the United Shore Professional Baseball League to reach the Majors, following a climb from Class A Advanced Fort Myers all the way to the Twins earlier this season. But it all began in that small ballpark nestled in the northern suburbs of the Detroit area.

"I wouldn't be where I am if they didn't give me the chance to go out there and play," Dobnak said. "I took it and ran with it."