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Nolasco nears return to the Twins

Right-hander to get work in Florida, could be available in Detroit

MINNEAPOLIS -- Once believed to be out the rest of the season, Ricky Nolasco is nearing a return to the Twins and could be available to pitch on the team's upcoming road trip, which begins next week in Detroit.

Nolasco has been on the disabled list since June 4 with a right ankle impingement. His recovery went slowly, with the team considering him a longshot to help the postseason push. But Nolasco had progressed to throwing and will head to Ft. Myers on Saturday to throw to Minor Leaguers.

If Nolasco proceeds as expected, he could return by the end of next week.

"We'll see where he's at," Twins manager Paul Molitor said before Friday's game. "You never know what's going to happen. Things change here quickly just because of our need, the shortening of the schedule and whether he gets out there to get an opportunity to help us maybe in a long role or whatever, we'll have to see how it plays out."

In seven starts this season, Nolasco is 5-1 with a 5.51 ERA.

Rain altered Nolasco's throwing session on Friday. He was scheduled to throw from the mound in a simulation game, but instead had his session moved to the bullpen.

"Another good day," Molitor said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't head out on the field and get him some live hitters. We had to adjust. He threw, basically, three innings of work and I thought each inning got progressively sharper."

Nolasco will go to Ft. Myers to continue workouts and will face hitters on Monday as part of an instructional league game. Molitor said Nolasco could throw about 45 pitches. He'll have a couple of workouts, as well, before being re-evaluated.

"He hasn't pitched in I don't know how many months," general manager Terry Ryan said. "But he's healthy and he's working, and he's ready to pitch. Now we just have to get some of that rust off, is all."

Molitor wasn't sure when Nolasco would return to Minnesota, but he could re-join the team next week.

"I don't know when the earliest would be, whether it's Thursday or Friday depending on how he responds from actually pitching in a game down there," Molitor said.

Worth noting

• Molitor said All-Star closer Glen Perkins and reliever Trevor May are ready to return and are available Friday.

Perkins has been out since Sept. 1 because of back spasms. May has been out the past few days with a hip injury. Kevin Jepsen has saved three games in Perkins' absence and Molitor said both players could possibly see save chances.

"Kevin still deserves that shot right now, but you hope you think that you might get into a circumstance where you've got to save three or four days in a row," Molitor said. "That would be really good for us. Then you might have to give someone else a chance because someone's just not able to go on a given day."

• Right-hander Phil Hughes will join Minnesota's bullpen for the weekend series against Los Angeles, but Molitor hasn't ruled out Hughes returning to the rotation.

Hughes will be available to help fill innings, with Molitor saying Hughes could be used in the "early to middle" innings.

"We're looking for people that we feel can give us the best chance as starters from here on out," Molitor said. "We don't have a ton of games left. If Mike [Pelfrey] pitches well, I might bounce him back quickly, on regular rest. You just kind of have to see how guys perform. Phil's OK. If he can help us out there the next couple days, he's game for that and then we'll figure out next week and going forward."

Brian Hall is a contributor to
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