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Nearing return, Hughes begins trip to bullpen

Veteran right-hander will work in relief for Twins
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Phil Hughes is slated to begin the next step of his rehab with Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday, but it will be in a different role.

Hughes is expected to pitch one inning in relief for the Red Wings, and remain in a similar job for the time being. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said he could potentially pitch consecutive outings out of the bullpen over the weekend, depending on how he feels after Wednesday.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Phil Hughes is slated to begin the next step of his rehab with Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday, but it will be in a different role.

Hughes is expected to pitch one inning in relief for the Red Wings, and remain in a similar job for the time being. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said he could potentially pitch consecutive outings out of the bullpen over the weekend, depending on how he feels after Wednesday.

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"I think he feels really good in shorter stints," Molitor said. "We are not totally sure how the longer outings will be, in terms of symptomatically of having to deal with some things that put him on the DL in the first place. At least for now, we are going to try him out there."

Hughes, who is 4-3 with a 5.74 ERA in nine starts this year, was placed on the disabled list with inflammation of the right biceps tendon on May 22. Hughes threw a pair of 15-pitch bullpen sessions on Monday. The righty hasn't made more than two appearances out of the bullpen in a year since 2011.

Video: COL@MIN: Hughes strikes out Gonzalez, escapes trouble

The 30-year-old hurler has a 2.20 ERA in 53 career games as a reliever -- 44 of which came in 2009 with the Yankees. But if Hughes hopes to return to the big leagues soon, this may be the best route to rejoining the Twins' staff.

"It's been a while, it's something he hasn't had to do for the better part of four or five years," Molitor said. "It will be getting acclimated to that type of routine. I know that he knows that's what he needs to do to try and get back on the 25-man [roster]."

Minnesota's relief unit has struggled for much of the year, posting a Major League-high 5.30 ERA across 236 innings entering Tuesday. The relievers' 18.2 percent strikeout rate was also the lowest in MLB, while allowing the third-highest opponents batting average of .268.

Though Hughes may eventually be stretched out to return to the rotation, the bullpen would certainly welcome a familiar face in the interim.

"As far as long term how we are going to get him stretched out, that's still a question for us," Molitor said. "In the short term, he has a chance to help us in shorter stints."

Santiago nearing return from DL

Molitor said left-hander Hector Santiago (shoulder) will also begin the next stage of his rehab with Rochester on Wednesday. He is slated to throw four innings -- or 60 pitches -- for the Red Wings, and the club will then determine what is next for him.

"He's anxious to get out there. I know he'd like to get back here sooner rather than later, too," Molitor said. "He could come back in a long role, or a starter's role, depending on how things go tomorrow."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Twins, Phil Hughes