Crede misses fourth straight game

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins third baseman Joe Crede's lingering back problems are flaring up at the worst possible time.

Crede missed Tuesday night's game against Baltimore with a sore back that has now kept him out four straight games as the Twins try to chase down Detroit and Chicago in the AL Central. He had an MRI exam Tuesday, and manager Ron Gardenhire said it revealed "post-surgical changes."

Team pyhsicians need to consult with the doctor who performed Crede's most recent back surgery in 2008 before a treatment plan is formed, so it is still not clear whether Crede will be put on the disabled list.

"It's locked up right now. His back doesn't feel very good," Gardenhire said. "I'll let the doctors tell me where we go."

The Twins signed Crede to a one-year deal in February, hoping the back problems of the previous two seasons were behind him. He had major surgery in 2007 and '08, causing him to miss significant time both years.

Crede has played in 88 of the team's 126 games this season and is hitting just .229. But he has still managed to hit 15 home runs and play his usual solid defense.

Brendan Harris got the start at third base Tuesday night.

The Twins received better news on left-hander Francisco Liriano, who went on the 15-day disabled list last week because of fatigue in his pitching arm.

Gardenhire said the team conducted some tests on his surgically repaired elbow and "everything looks great." Team trainers are currently working on a program to get Liriano throwing again.

"Everything checked out really good in his elbow," Gardenhire said. "Now it's just getting a program where he's going to start playing some catch again here pretty soon."