Hunter was the third Twins outfielder disabled in the past four
days, a discouraging development for a team that is desperately
trying to catch the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox in the AL
Central race. He isn't expected to be out much longer than two
"Let's hope," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Lew Ford strained a muscle on his right side while swinging at a
pitch in Thursday's game, and Shannon Stewart returned to the DL
for the second time this season after reinjuring his left foot
Outfielder Josh Rabe was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to
take Hunter's place, and he is expected to join the team for Monday
night's game against the Devil Rays.
Rondell White's rehabilitation assignment ended hastily when
Stewart went down, and he was the designated hitter on Sunday
against the Indians. Jason Tyner was brought up after Ford's
injury, and he played left. Michael Cuddyer was in right field, and
Nick Punto -- a utility infielder who became the starting third
baseman a month ago -- started for Hunter in center.
Tyner will probably get most of the starts there while Hunter is
out, with Punto moving back to third.
"I'm just trying to stay within myself and play my game," said
Tyner, who has five RBI and six hits in 12 at-bats since being
Jason Kubel, who took over as the regular left fielder when
Stewart got hurt the first time in late May, is fighting sore knees
and can't run full speed. Kubel and backup catcher Mike Redmond
were the only two available bench players Sunday, with corner
infielder Terry Tiffee away after the birth of his twin boys.
"We're in dire straits right now," manager Ron Gardenhire said
before the game.
Both Hunter and Stewart had MRI tests done Sunday morning.
Stewart's revealed an aggravation of a previous incomplete tear
of the plantar fascia tissue in his left foot, according to the
team, and Gardenhire said he will be out for a while _ declining to
put a timetable on his return. Hunter's showed a stress fracture in
the fourth metatarsal, one of the long bones that extends from heel
Hunter, whose 2005 season ended two months early when he broke a
bone near his left ankle while trying to make a catch in center
field, left Saturday night's game after two innings. Until Sunday,
he was out of the lineup only once, despite playing with persistent
soreness in that foot this year.
His absence was undoubtedly the biggest blow for Minnesota,
which missed Hunter's leadership dearly after the injury last
season. He's batting .269 with 14 homers and 49 RBI.
"If we were in the World Series, he could probably play through
it," Gardenhire said. "But this is not the time to do it."