Kepler, Twins relieved day after neck injury

Rookie outfielder held out Friday, cleared to return

Kepler, Twins relieved day after neck injury

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins received good news on rookie outfielder Max Kepler, who suffered a mild neck strain in Thursday's game against the Tigers but could return to the lineup as early as Saturday.

Kepler, who was injured running into the wall trying to track down a double hit to the right-field corner, was held out of the lineup in the series opener against the Mariners on Friday, but said he had been cleared to play.

"After the game, I thought it was going to be a lot worse today," Kepler said. "But I guess I treated it the right way. It was a little stiff but it loosened up."

Twins manager Paul Molitor checked in with Kepler when he got to the park, and was pleased to hear that the injury isn't serious, especially with Minnesota's lack of outfield depth after Danny Santana and Eddie Rosario went down with season-ending injuries.

"The trainers told me he's doing fine and recovered fairly well after taking a pretty good shot there," Molitor said. "It was a strange play, but those things happen. I was a little concerned about it getting worse and not being available for a few days because we only have three other outfielders. So I'm glad to hear he's good to go."

Molitor said with Kepler likely to return this weekend, he didn't reach out to interim general manager Rob Antony about adding an outfielder. Adam Walker is on the 40-man roster, but he would've been called up only if Kepler was out for the year.

"I didn't go as far as to pursue that line with Rob," Molitor said. "[Maybe] if I would've got an indication he was going to be shut down. But I don't know how feasible it is to call up a guy who hasn't played in a couple weeks."

Worth noting

• Rookie right-hander Jose Berrios will start the series opener against the Royals in Kansas City on Tuesday and will also start the season finale against the White Sox on Oct. 2. Molitor said he'll talk with veteran right-hander Ervin Santana to see if he wants to start again next week or shut it down. Santana has been Minnesota's best starter with a 3.37 ERA in 29 outings.

• The Twins will continue to monitor first baseman Joe Mauer down the stretch, as he was held out of the lineup again Friday after not playing in Thursday's doubleheader. Mauer, who has been dealing with sore quads, hasn't started a game since Saturday against the Mets.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. 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.