OAKLAND -- The Twins plan to activate right-hander Kyle Gibson from the 15-day disabled list to start on Thursday against the Rays. In a surprising decision, veteran right-hander Phil Hughes will head to the bullpen in long relief to make room for Gibson in the rotation.
Gibson, on the DL retroactive to April 23 with a right shoulder strain, made his second rehab start with Class A Advanced Fort Myers on Friday, with general manager Terry Ryan in attendance. Gibson gave up one run over five innings with six strikeouts while throwing 72 pitches.
The Twins determined he was ready after two rehab outings, and he threw a bullpen session on Monday to get ready for Thursday's start. Minnesota chose to move Hughes to the bullpen instead of Pat Dean or Ricky Nolasco, who are both coming off strong starts.
"We all knew that Kyle's return was pending, and we had a decision here over the last couple of days following Dean's performance on Friday and determining in the short term that we want to keep Pat in there," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Kyle, we feel, is ready to help us. We have a five-man rotation, not six, so we had to make a decision."
With Gibson rejoining the rotation, Molitor decided to move Hughes to the bullpen after his struggles this season. Hughes, who has dealt with shoulder fatigue, is 1-7 with a 5.74 ERA in 10 starts. He last started on Saturday, when he gave up four runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Dean, meanwhile, has posted a 2.77 ERA in his two starts since joining the rotation. Nolasco showed improved velocity on Sunday, allowing two runs over six innings with seven strikeouts.
The move to the bullpen isn't new for Hughes, who has experience as a reliever from his time with the Yankees. Hughes has made 52 career appearances as a reliever, posting a 2.11 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings. But most of that experience came in 2009, as he made 44 relief appearances that year.
"Phil understood, he handled it very professionally, said he's going to go out there and do work and try to help us out there," Molitor said. "I just told him to be ready, because you never know when things will change -- which they have a tendency to do around here rather quickly. At least for now, he's going to go out there and keep working on things, and hopefully he's going to help us out coming out of the 'pen."
• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe was held out of the lineup for a third straight game with a sprained MCL in his right knee, but is slated to return to action on Tuesday, Molitor said.
"It's getting better and it's not a structural thing," Plouffe said. "There's going to be some pain there for a while. But it's not going to get any worse, which to me, means I'm ready."
• Catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was cleared of concussion symptoms on Sunday, was also held out of the lineup for the second straight day as a precaution. But he's available and is expected to return along with Plouffe on Tuesday.