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Hughes one step closer to rejoining rotation

KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Phil Hughes threw a 45-pitch bullpen session without any issues at Target Field on Sunday and is scheduled to join the Twins in Kansas City on Wednesday to throw a simulated game.

Manager Paul Molitor said on Monday that he received positive reports on Hughes, who is on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Aug. 10) with inflammation in his lower back. Hughes will throw 45 pitches against hitters at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday and will throw extra pitches in the bullpen after that to build up his count. The Twins will decide his next step after he gets through Wednesday.

"Phil did well," Molitor said. "I think the plan is to try to get him down here tomorrow tonight and we'll set up some hitters for him Wednesday afternoon. We're in a little bit different circumstances as far as where we are in the season and the options we have to get him ready to pitch. Sometimes you have to take a little bit more risk than you would in April or May. But everything went well yesterday."

Hughes could rejoin the rotation as early as next week, or he could be sent on a rehab assignment to make a start in the Minor Leagues. But with the Minor League season ending on Monday, that outing would likely have to be with Double-A Chattanooga, which is in the Southern League playoffs but could be eliminated before Hughes is ready to pitch.

"We've talked about options," Molitor said. "With Chattanooga playing, you keep your eye on that. That's a possibility. We'll see how they do."

Molitor added that right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who has struggled recently with a 10.22 ERA over his last three starts, will make his next scheduled start, on Wednesday against the Royals. But another subpar outing could put Pelfrey's rotation spot in jeopardy, as rookie right-hander Tyler Duffey has been pitching well, with a 2.67 ERA over his last five starts. Duffey, though, has thrown 170 1/3 innings this season after throwing 149 1/3 in 2014.

"You can just look where we're at and try to evaluate all the starters in the rotation to see where you might have a better option once [Hughes is] ready to start," Molitor said.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.
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