Notes: Watkins' journey leads to Twins

Notes: Watkins gets coveted call

KANSAS CITY -- Tommy Watkins got the word about 5 p.m. Thursday, the word he had waited 10 years to get. Twins general manager Terry Ryan talked to Watkins and told him he was headed to the Majors.

At first, Watkins was speechless. The seasons spent in Fort Myers, Rochester, New Britain, Elizabethon and Quad Cities were finally worth it.

"It's been a long road and to finally have a chance to be in this situation, it is something else," Watkins said with a smile before Thursday's game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Watkins, a 27-year-old utility man, received congratulations from his Triple-A Rochester teammates and the rest of the Twins. He will play multiple positions for Minnesota and fill the spot of Brian Buscher, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a leg infection.

Buscher reported to a Minnesota hospital on Wednesday night and an MRI showed he had a localized abscess in his leg. The abscess was drained and Buscher was admitted, where he will receive IV antibiotics and be released either Thursday night or Friday morning. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't know how much time Buscher will miss.

"It's an infection," the manager said. "You are going to have to let it clear up. Going out and trying to play baseball is [tough]. He is on the DL for two weeks and hopefully by the time the two weeks are up he can go back out there. Obviously, you don't want to mess around with something like that."

In the meantime, Watkins will play third base -- Buscher's main position -- and see time at the middle infield spots and in the outfield. He could also see action against left-handed pitching. The Twins rank second to last in the American League in OPS -- on-base plus slugging percentage -- (.723) against left-handers and Watkins batted .303 versus lefties for Rochester.

"We are going to mix him around the infield," Gardenhire said. "He can play anywhere. He has numbers against lefties so that will help us out."

Several years ago, it appeared Watkins' career might have been over. As a 25-year-old, Watkins batted just .225 for Double-A New Britain in 2005. But he rebounded to bat .276 in 60 games for Triple-A Rochester last season and was hitting .272 before his call up this year.

"My game stayed the same, but I got older and I got smarter and I think things like that helped me a little bit," Watkins said of the turnaround.

Now he finds himself in a Major League uniform for the first time.

"He is a good kid," Gardenhire said. "He has worked very, very hard and bucked the odds and went from being one of these organizational guys awhile back and people saying that he is going to make a great coach, to being here in the big leagues, because he presevered and worked his tail off. He got better and better and that is fun to watch. That doesn't happen very often, but it is fun to watch."

White ready for outfield: After a workout Thursday, Rondell White could play the outfield this weekend against the Angels, Gardenhire said. White, who has experienced several leg injuries this season, hasn't played the outfield since April 4.

"I am excited to be on the field," White said. "Like Torii [Hunter] has said, it feels good to be on the field and make a regular catch. It makes you better at the plate, so we will see what happens."

Gardenhire isn't certain whether White can play on the turf in the Metrodome yet.

"If he does fine out here on the grass, there would be no reason to see if he couldn't play on the turf," the manager said. "We will wait and see. We will just take it one step at a time."

Pitching a strength: Over the last 11 games, the starting pitching has recorded a 2.55 ERA and Twins hurlers have tossed six-plus innings in 10 of those games. Several playoff-caliber teams -- including Cleveland and Detroit -- are either struggling or have key starters on the disabled list.

However, Minnesota's recent run has helped the Twins rank second in the American League in August ERA (3.29) and second in second-half ERA (3.65).

"Our pitchers have been throwing the ball really good," Gardenhire said. "Coming in, we started out with a couple of veterans and got as far as we could as the young guys got themselves together.

"They have been going at it OK. It is not an everyday perfect thing. You are going to see some snafus with young pitchers when the ball just doesn't come out of their hand right, but they have been pretty doggone good."

The Twins don't expect any trouble with ace Johan Santana's cracked fingernail. Santana delivered a quality start in Wednesday's win and left the game after six innings. The problem has bothered Santana several times in the past but he has never experienced any long-term effects.

"He deals with that," Gardenhire said. "We even try to get him out there, not have him throw between starts, but he throws because he wants to throw. I don't worry about Johan. He will be fine."

The Twins could also get another pitcher back soon. Glen Perkins (shoulder) is expected to pitch Thursday for the Rookie League Gulf Coast Twins.

Coming up: Scott Baker (6-4, 4.43 ERA) will face Kelvim Escobar (11-6, 2.79) in the first contest of a three-game series in Anaheim on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. CT.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.