Hughes' back injury improving steadily

Hughes' back injury improving steadily

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Phil Hughes continues to progress slowly from lower back inflammation, but he is expected to throw a bullpen session by the middle of the week.

Hughes, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 10, threw without any issues for three straight days before taking Sunday off. He's expected to throw his first bullpen session before the Twins head to Houston on Friday, but he won't join the team on the road trip, as he'll continue to rehab at Target Field.

"Phil is tentatively scheduled to throw off the mound mid-week, so we're trying to get him headed back toward getting back on the field," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's going to have to get on a mound and then have to face some hitters probably in a simulated-game situation."

Molitor, though, said there's still no timetable for his return, as he still needs to build up his pitch count, as his last start came on Aug. 9.

"I can only speculate how long it's going to take," Molitor said. "It's a rebuilding process. It's going to take some time. I'm sure as we get closer and we see how he does off the mound the first time, we'll get a feel and set up a timetable for when he'll pitch again."

Hughes said things are headed in the right direction and joked he's now able to do everyday things like get out of bed without any pain.

"It's feeling better, but I still feel it here and there," Hughes said. "But right now, I can actually put my pants on without sitting down. That was the hurdle I had to get over."

Worth noting

• Molitor said he expects to bring up September callups on Tuesday instead of waiting until the Minor League season ends on Sept. 7. He also said he plans on bringing up a third catcher, but that would mean adding one to the 40-man roster. Eric Fryer is the top catching candidate to be called up, as Josmil Pinto won't catch again this season.

• Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, on the 60-day DL with a right ankle impingement, is continuing to make progress with his injury. He's been running in the outfield without any issues and has been playing long toss, Molitor said.

• Top prospect Jose Berrios was named the Twins' Minor League Player of the Week after throwing seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts for Triple-A Rochester. Berrios, ranked the No. 23 overall prospect by MLB.com, has posted a 2.95 ERA with 165 strikeouts and 37 walks in a career-high 155 1/3 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester. He's a candidate to be called up in September, but is nearing his innings limit so it would likely be in relief and he'd have to be added to the 40-man roster.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.