Willingham back in lineup, returns to left field

Willingham back in lineup, returns to left field

MINNEAPOLIS -- Josh Willingham, who had a cortisone shot in his left knee on Saturday, returned to the Twins' lineup on Tuesday against the White Sox, starting in left field and batting cleanup.

Willingham missed two straight games with soreness in his left knee on Saturday and Sunday before using Monday's off-day to give his knee another day of rest. But he felt good enough to make his first start in the outfield Tuesday since June 9, as he was reduced to designated hitter duty last week before missing Saturday and Sunday.

"Willingham feels good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So we'll see what happens."

Gardenhire also wanted to give extra rest to Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer after Monday's day off, as Morneau started at DH on Tuesday while Mauer played first base. It marked just the third start of the year for Morneau at DH.

"He's feeling fine," Gardenhire said. "We just talked about how this was a good day. He's played all the way up until. So this was perfect."

It gave Mauer just his fourth start at first base this year with Ryan Doumit getting the start at backstop. Mauer is expected to be back behind the plate on Wednesday.

"He's a good first baseman and it gives him another day off from behind [the plate]," Gardenhire said. "We're going to be in a stretch with a lot of games. So this gives us an opportunity."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.