Twins unsure when Milone will return

Hughes in rotation as lefty deals with shoulder fatigue

Twins unsure when Milone will return

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tommy Milone's return to the rotation remains a question mark, as the lefty threw a short bullpen session Thursday, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said it didn't go as well as he had hoped.

Milone, who was scratched from Wednesday's start because of shoulder fatigue, was replaced in the rotation by Phil Hughes, who tossed five scoreless innings in a 4-2 win. Molitor said the rotation is written in pencil from here on out because of Milone's injury, but that Hughes will remain in the rotation after his solid performance.

"We're in a situation right now where we have basically five guys in the rotation because Tommy Milone is an unknown on what role he can perform in from here on out," Molitor said. "I think he threw 10-15 pitches today and I wouldn't say it was a setback, but I think the reports are he isn't imminently ready to return."

Molitor also pointed out the Twins have been trying to give rookie right-hander Tyler Duffey extra rest, as he was thrown 183 2/3 innings this year after throwing 138 last season. But with no off-days left, Duffey would have to pitch on regular rest after his outing Saturday in Detroit.

"The other caveat to the equation is we've tried to back off Duffey as much as we can this month to give him extra days," Molitor said. "I could've tried to pitch him [Friday] on four days' rest instead of five, but I just think those days are important."

If the rotation remains lined up the way it is and Milone doesn't return as a sixth starter, Kyle Gibson would start the final game of the season Oct. 4 against the Royals, which would leave either Mike Pelfrey or Duffey to start the potential American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Oct. 6. Ideally, the Twins would like to clinch before the last day of the season to allow Gibson to start in the Wild Card Game, but it's a situation that could be out of their control. There's also a chance of a Game 163 in case of a tie for the second Wild Card, which would be played Oct. 5.

"It's kind of lining up the way it's lining up in terms of the Wild Card," Molitor said." You can map it out and see where it leads."

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.