MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Ricky Nolasco will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to start Saturday against the White Sox, and will replace left-hander Tommy Milone in the rotation. Milone will go to the bullpen in long relief.
The Twins are also monitoring right-hander Phil Hughes' progress after he left Wednesday's outing against the Tigers after five innings because of a minor left hip flexor strain. Hughes is slated to start on Monday against the A's, but if he can't go, Milone could make that start in his place. Hughes is optimistic he'll make his next start, but will have to throw a bullpen session this weekend without any issues before he's cleared.
Nolasco, who is on the DL retroactive to April 9 with right elbow inflammation, made a rehab start with Class A Cedar Rapids on Sunday, allowing just one unearned run over five innings. He threw 67 pitches that outing so he will have his first start capped at roughly 85 pitches, according to Twins manager Paul Molitor. The decision to move Milone to the bullpen also means right-handers Trevor May and Mike Pelfrey will remain in the rotation.
"After much discussion we feel he's ready to perform at this level," Molitor said. "We're looking forward to having him back. Tommy is going out to the bullpen in the short-term."
Left-handed reliever Brian Duensing, who is on the 15-day DL with a right intercostal strain, also could join Nolasco and be activated from the DL on Saturday. Duensing threw 30 pitches in a simulated game on Thursday, and if he feels fine on Friday, he'll be ready to come off the DL on his first day eligible.
"He did two sessions of 15 pitches to some of our hitters and the ball was coming out really well," Molitor said. "So no issue with the injury. So he's eligible on Saturday, and we'll see how he reacts tomorrow, and decide what we'll do."
The Twins, however, haven't announced who Nolasco and Duensing will replace on the roster. Left-hander Caleb Thielbar, who was called up from Triple-A Rochester when Duensing went on the DL, is the most likely candidate to be sent down to make room. Right-hander Tim Stauffer, the club's current long reliever, has struggled this year with an 8.38 ERA in eight relief appearances but is out of Minor League options so he'd have to be designated for assignment if the Twins plan to go that route. Stauffer was signed to a $2.2 million deal this offseason, so Minnesota might want to give him a longer look despite his struggles.
• Outfielder Jordan Schafer, who exited Wednesday's game in the sixth inning with a mild MCL sprain in his right knee after slipping near first base on a bunt single, will avoid the DL for now, according to Molitor. He's available to pinch-run and pinch-hit, but was out of the lineup Thursday with lefty Chris Sale starting for the White Sox.
"Schafer's knee had been bothering him for a week or so and said he aggravated it on that slip," Molitor said. "But he was adamant after the game he was ready to go. I just don't have him in there because Sale is pitching."