Tolbert made the Opening Day roster in 2008 and had gotten off to a good start before injuring his left thumb, which required surgery that sidelined him for 3 1/2 months. He came back in September and again played well but was the final cut this season coming out of Spring Training.
So Tolbert went to Triple-A Rochester, played well, batting .260, and was ready when the Twins called him up after optioning second baseman Alexi Casilla earlier Wednesday. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Tolbert is a true No. 2 hitter who can switch-hit, run, bunt and handle the bat.
"He's busting [hard] every day," Gardenhire said. "I don't need to hear any more than that about that young man, really. I didn't expect to hear any other report than that. He will always do that. He should have been on our club out of Spring Training, but it didn't work out numbers-wise. There was no doubt he was the guy I was calling up."
Tolbert will serve as a utility infielder for Gardenhire, giving the Twins more depth off the bench, and the 27-year-old (his birthday was Monday) is happy to help at this level.
Tolbert was in the Twins' lineup Wednesday against the Orioles batting second. He flew out to left in his first at-bat and made a great defensive play on a Gregg Zaun grounder to to end the first inning.
"I'll do whatever I can do," Tolbert said. "I'll be here and will get ready to play."
Tolbert hit .283 in 41 games last year, but the thumb injury interrupted the season. He jammed his thumb diving back into first base and was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 16, with surgery to repair a torn ligament following.
He missed 96 games before coming back on Sept. 2. Tolbert has found success in Baltimore, getting two triples in a game here on Sept. 13.
"It took a little while," Tolbert said. "When you hurt something, you start thinking about it. It was major surgery, and it took a little while just to get the stiffness out of it. But it's better now."
Gardenhire didn't guarantee anything for Tolbert except the one thing every player wants -- a chance.
"It's a chance for him to come up and play in the Major Leagues, which everybody wants," Gardenhire said. "You can call it what you want -- Wally Pipp, whatever you want to call it. I don't care. I just want him to go out and bring the energy he always does. He's a good player, no matter where I put him."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less