Notes: Mauer feels fine after testing leg

Notes: Mauer feels fine after testing leg

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Any doubt that had remained about Joe Mauer's ability to return for the start of the regular season was erased Wednesday in his first game since being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left fibula last week.

Mauer caught left-hander Glen Perkins for three innings in a game pairing up the Twins' Triple-A Rochester squad and Double-A New Britain. Mauer reported no problems after the game and told Twins manager Ron Gardenhire that his leg felt just fine.

And as for all those concerns that the layoff would affect Mauer's timing, those proved to be unfounded as well. The Twins catcher went 2-for-3 in the game as he faced right-handed pitching prospect Anthony Swarzak. Mauer delivered a hard-hit double in his first at-bat to drive in a run and then belted a home run over the center-field wall.

So much for the long layoff.

"He was a little rusty swinging," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "I mean, he only hit a home run and a double. He's a little rusty, but he'll get there."

The plan for Mauer is to have him take part in a similar Minor League game Thursday. He likely will be stretched out for four or five innings and will get between four and five at-bats.

Shaky finale: Three times this spring, the Red Sox and Twins have featured a pitching duel between aces Johan Santana and Curt Schilling.

So in Wednesday's final matchup of the two talented pitchers, there wasn't quite as much buzz in the air. But part of that may have been that Santana didn't really live up to his end of the duel, either.

Santana's start wasn't exactly the kind he had hoped to head into the regular season with, as he gave up four runs on eight hits over five innings. But the pitcher said after the outing that he wasn't too concerned with the results.

"I was having a little bit of a tough time trying to see the signs [from catcher Mike Redmond]. It's kind of dark, but other than that it was fine," Santana said. "I threw some good pitches. I was working on my changeups, and I was working on my fastballs inside."

For Santana, the spring has been a little shaky in regards to command as he has walked a total of 14 batters and that included two Wednesday.

But the outing came against an arguably tougher opponent, with the Red Sox rolling out their Opening Day lineup for the final contest that saw the Mayor's Cup on the line. And after facing a tough group like the one he saw Wednesday, Santana said that he feels he's ready to go for Opening Day -- which is what he had hoped would arise from the night.

"That's what you're looking for," he said. "You're working on your stamina and your endurance. ... I feel that all my pitches are coming out of my hand pretty good. My mechanics and my release point [are] fine. When you go against a team like that, it's tougher, but that's the way it is. That's the way it's going to be after April 2."

Missing an option: The Twins will be without infielder Alejandro Machado for possibly the entire season after Machado underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Machado traveled to Birmingham, Ala., to visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, and surgery was performed on the shoulder Tuesday. He's expected to miss between four and six months. Machado will remain in Florida for his rehabilitation once the team leaves for Minnesota.

Improving prognosis: Third baseman Nick Punto continues his progress toward being ready for Opening Day.

Punto took batting practice Wednesday and will not travel with the club Thursday. Instead, he will stay behind to get in some more swings before taking part in a Minor League game Friday. As long as everything goes well with that start, Punto is slated to play in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh at Hammond Stadium.

"He should be on line to leave with us," Gardenhire said.

Coming up: The Twins will travel to Sarasota to take on the Reds in a 6:05 p.m. CT contest Thursday. Right-hander Carlos Silva will get the start for Minnesota as he faces off against Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.