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Milone tests shoulder, ready to face Royals

Lefty hoping Saturday start has postseason implications

CLEVELAND -- While the Twins are still deciding on the starter for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Royals, left-hander Tommy Milone threw a light bullpen session without any issues on Thursday and said he's ready and excited to take the mound on Saturday.

Milone, who picked up the win on short notice Monday when he allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Indians, said his left shoulder no longer bothers him. He was out 11 days with left shoulder fatigue before returning Monday with right-hander Phil Hughes scratched with flu-like symptoms.

Hughes pitched a scoreless inning in relief in Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said Hughes is still feeling the effects of the illness, which means right-hander Kyle Gibson is under serious consideration to start on short rest Sunday, especially if the game has postseason implications.

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Milone will be starting on regular rest Saturday for the first time since Sept. 17 and said he's looking forward to the opportunity.

"I think it shows how much trust they have, especially after my last start here," Milone said. "I felt pretty good. It's a good sign, obviously."

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Milone said he'll treat Saturday just like any other start, and will lean on his experiences with the A's in 2012 and 2013, when they made the postseason. Milone started in Game 2 of the 2012 American League Division Series against the Tigers, allowing one run over six innings in a no-decision.

"It's a lot of fun, to be honest," Milone said. "Pitching in games this late in the season is more fun than it is nerve-wracking. With playoff implications sometimes you can go out there and try to do too much, but for me, it's a lot of fun. I did it in 2012 and 2013 and it was a lot of fun."

Milone said that remains the biggest start of his career but that if Saturday's game has serious playoff implications, it'll rank right up there with it.

"This one will be up there if it comes down to staying in or being kicked out of the playoffs," Milone said. "I was pitching in Game 2 so it wasn't an elimination game. But obviously it was still important."

Milone, who is 9-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 23 outings with the Twins this year, said he's learned to keep the pressure off himself, even in big games.

"Once you get between the lines, it's the same game," Milone said. "It makes it extremely tough when you put that kind of pressure on yourself. You have to try to stay within yourself. Obviously, you might have a little more adrenaline, but that's fine as long as you stay within yourself and don't try to do anything extra."

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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