MINNEAPOLIS — When RHP Al Reyes clocked just 83-84 mph during Monday night's game against the Yankees, manager Joe Maddon thought something could be up with the veteran reliever.
Turns out, Maddon was right.
Reyes was placed Wednesday on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder impingement (akin to inflammation in the rotator cuff). He was replaced by LHP Kurt Birkins, who just came off the DL with left elbow neuritis.
Reyes said the shoulder has bothered him his past three outings but got worse Monday (when he gave up winning homer to Robinson Cano). Apparently, it's similar to the problem that forced the 38-year-old on the DL last season, but less serious. "I just couldn't get loose," Reyes said.
Birkins was all smiles when he arrived at the Metrodome two hours before the first pitch. The 27-year-old, who had already packed his car to drive from Tampa to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday morning, was told late Tuesday night there was a "slight change of plans."
He was used immediately, retiring all four Twins batters he faced.
Maddon said the plan is to use RHP Dan Wheeler more in the setup role, with LHP Trever Miller still getting work primarily vs. lefties. RHP Gary Glover could see more of the seventh, with Birkins, a former starter, serving in a similar long relief role as LHP J.P. Howell; Howell can be used in more situational roles, vs. righties or lefties.
Reyes' DL stint is retroactive to April 15, and Maddon believes he'll serve the minimum.
NAVI UPDATE: Maddon said C Dioner Navarro "caught really well" for five innings in an extended spring game. Navarro blocked several pitches and even threw a runner out, but he didn't swing the bat; he'll do that today, Maddon said. Navarro will catch ace LHP Scott Kazmir (left elbow strain) in his rehab start Friday in Vero Beach and is on track to return early next week.
WELCOME BACK: SS Jason Bartlett, acquired from the Twins with Matt Garza in the Delmon Young trade in the offseason, admitted it was a little strange being back at the Metrodome, especially in the visiting clubhouse. Bartlett, in the Twins organization since 2002, had a career year offensively last season.
When Bartlett arrived in the clubhouse, he noticed a poster of his likeness had been removed from the door, but there was a gift from an old friend, Twins 1B Justin Morneau, in his locker. Bartlett said he had used Morneau's bat during batting practice last season, and Morneau left Bartlett a piece of lumber before Wednesday's game.
"I guess he saw I'm not hitting," said Bartlett, who was batting .191 going in. "So he's trying to help me out."
MINOR MATTERS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson had a memorable night Tuesday, striking out a career-high 13 and walking none in seven scoreless innings for Class A Vero Beach.
MISCELLANY: Garza (radial nerve irritation) will throw his second bullpen session today in St. Petersburg. If all goes well, he'll make a rehab start Sunday for Vero Beach. … LHP David Price is expected to throw long toss today and have a bullpen session this weekend. The top prospect has been out with a strained left elbow. … Maddon sandwiched Carlos Pena in the cleanup spot between B.J. Upton (third) and Evan Longoria to make it tough on the Twins to use their left-handed relievers. … RHP Juan Salas, stuck in the Dominican Republic for months due to a visa issue, is expected to arrive at the Naimoli complex in St. Petersburg today.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.