MIN@TOR: Morales strikes out in first Twins at-bat

TORONTO -- In a surprise move, Kendrys Morales made his Twins debut on Monday, batting sixth and starting at designated hitter against the Blue Jays.

Morales, who officially joined the Twins on Sunday after signing a one-year, $12 million prorated contract, was expected to need roughly a week to get ready before playing in his first game.

Morales fared just fine in his first game back, as he went 1-for-3 with a walk. He singled with one out in the ninth to help spark a two-run rally for the Twins, who tied it up but ultimately lost in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth.

Morales said his timing got better as the game went along, but admitted it was strange playing his first game against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. He added that he wants to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, and wants to be an everyday player moving forward.

"For not seeing pitching for a long time it was tough facing a knuckleball," Morales said. "My first at-bat, I didn't feel good. The second at-bat was better, and the third at-bat was a little better. And then my fourth at-bat, single."

Morales hadn't played since last September, but called bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar on Sunday night and asked him to tell Twins manager Ron Gardenhire that he was ready to play on Monday.

"He said he's been sitting for four months and he thought about it and watched the game last night, so he wants to play," Gardenhire said. "I got no problem with that. I just told him he has to tell me how he's feeling out there."

Gardenhire said it'll be up to Morales to determine how much he'll play in his first week with the club, as he's still trying to knock off some rust. His first start came against Dickey, but Gardenhire said that didn't factor into the decision for Morales to start on Monday.

"I don't know if it's easier to come back and hit against a knuckleballer or against a guy throwing 95 [mph]," Gardenhire said. "I've never seen this before with a guy sitting out this long. But he's been swinging out there, so it's not like he's swinging cold turkey or coming out of a hospital bed."

Morales, who turns 31 on June 20, worked out six days a week at agent Scott Boras' training facility in Miami to stay sharp. He faced live pitching there, including facing free-agent right-hander Joel Pineiro, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony. Antony was also on board with the decision to put Morales right into the lineup.

"To me, the only way to knock off the rust is to play," Antony said. "Maybe he struggles or doesn't give us much for a week, but then he takes off and does fine. You can wait a week and let him take BP, but there's nothing really to simulate a real game. So I think it's great he wants to play."

Twins GM Ryan improving in cancer recovery

HOU@MIN: Twins GM Ryan discusses signing Morales

TORONTO -- Twins general manager Terry Ryan has been feeling much better in his recovery from neck cancer, and is almost ready to take back his usual responsibilities.

Ryan, 60, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in early February, and he had surgery to remove a cancerous mass from his neck on Feb. 11. He finished radiation treatments in late April and still has to undergo some physical therapy, but he has been working from his office over the last few weeks.

Ryan negotiated the Kendrys Morales deal with agent Scott Boras, and also spoke at Morales' press conference on Sunday. He was also at Target Field on Monday to introduce first-round Draft pick Nick Gordon, who officially signed with the Twins. The hope is that Ryan will join the Twins on their road trip through Anaheim and Texas that begins on June 24.

"The big thing is, he's back in the office and in there every day and watching games," said assistant general manager Rob Antony, who had been serving as acting GM in Ryan's absence. "So he's back in action."

Ryan estimated he's at about 80 percent when talking to reporters on Sunday but Antony said he believes Ryan was selling himself short. He still has problems with swallowing and with certain types of food but his energy level is almost back to normal.

"I think he's better than 80 percent," Antony said. "I think he's closer to 90 percent because he has a lot of energy. He has spark and his energy back. But that being said, he's the only one who knows how his throat feels and everything."

Antony added that the transition has been smooth recently, and he has started to advise other teams and agents to call Ryan now that he's back in the office and feeling better.

"I would say they should start talking to Terry," Antony said. "It's been seamless. It's like it was before. It's nice to go back in and get back to discussing everything with him and going over things."

Fuld faring well in rehab assignment

MIN@CLE: Fuld makes a nice running catch in center

TORONTO -- Outfielder Sam Fuld has been faring well in his rehab assignment with Double-A New Britain and hasn't had any setbacks related to his concussion that has kept him out of action since May 7.

Fuld began his rehab assignment on Saturday and has played in two games with the Rock Cats, going 2-for-6 with a double and a walk.

The Twins are hopeful he'll need roughly a week in the Minors before he'll be ready to be activated from the 15-day disabled list.

"Fuld played yesterday with no problems," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "The team had an off-day today, but he'll continue tomorrow on his rehab. He's had no side effects. No headaches. No problems."

Worth noting

• Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey met with Dr. James Andrews on Monday for a second opinion on his right elbow. Pelfrey, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain dating back to May 2, has been bothered recently by what's believed to be an issue related to his ulnar nerve.

The Twins are expected to know more about Pelfrey on Tuesday, as surgery could be an option. But it won't be Tommy John surgery, as it's not related to the ulnar collateral ligament.

"It's in the elbow and probably something with the nerve, but I don't know what the prognosis or the determination is," Antony said. "But it's not Tommy John."

• Center fielder Aaron Hicks was held out of the lineup for a second straight day after suffering a minor right shoulder injury while making a diving catch in center field to end Saturday's game. Rookie Danny Santana started in center field, as Hicks has had trouble throwing right now.

"Hicksy is better today and available to pinch-hit or pinch-run," Gardenhire said. "I don't know about the throwing yet."

• First baseman Joe Mauer returned to the lineup at first base on Monday after getting the day off on Sunday to get a mental break. Mauer has been scuffling recently, and entered Monday's game hitting just .264.

"I guarantee he needed it," Gardenhire said. "It's not so much physical. It was just mentally. He was pretty beat up. I have a pretty good feel for that stuff. I always say I won't do it, but it was needed. He needed a refresher."