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Padres At Twins: Mauer Returns For Minnesota As Interleague Play Resumes

Interleague play will resume on Friday night for the Minnesota Twins, as they finish up their ten-game homestand with a three-game series against the San Diego Padres. But that's not the biggest story coming out of Target Field this evening. No, the biggest story coming from Target Field today is that, when the starting lineup is released and the Minnesota Twins take the field on Friday night, their best and most popular player will be joining them for the first time since April 12.

Catcher Joe Mauer, who has battled bi-lateral leg weakness, viruses, and any number of maladies over the last two months, will be returning to the Minnesota lineup this evening against the Padres. Mauer has not played for the Twins since April 12, when he went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI in a 4-3 Minnesota victory over the Kansas City Royals. In 34 at-bats in 2011, Mauer is hitting .235, and only one of his eight hits on the season has gone for extra bases. All signs are a go for him coming back on Friday night, however, and the Twins are hoping that he will be the Joe Mauer they've become accustomed to since he arrived in the Major Leagues.

The Twins have won 11 of their last 13 games, despite a lot of regulars being out. Though they are now getting Mauer back, and activated middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka earlier in the week, they are still without Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Denard Span, and a number of pitchers as well.

Tonight, the Twins will give the baseball to left-hander Brian Duensing (3-6, 4.98 ERA). Duensing got bombed in his last start against the Texas Rangers, giving up seven runs on seven hits in just two innings of work (although only three of the seven runs were earned) in a 9-3 Twins loss on June 10.

The Padres will counter with left-hander Clayton Richard (2-8, 4.06 ERA). Richard has won just one time in his last ten starts, with one no-decision thrown in, but the Padres haven't been scoring him a lot of runs, either. In his last five starts. . .all losses. . .Richard has allowed only ten earned runs in nearly 31 innings of work, but the Padres as a team have scored only five runs during that same stretch, and three of those came in one game (they've also been shut out twice in that span).

First pitch for this one is scheduled for 7:10 PM Central time at Target Field, weather permitting. As always, be sure to check out the Twinkie Town Game Thread while the action is going on, and we'll be here for your recap when everything finishes up.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.