ST. PETERSBURG -- With Caleb Thielbar heading back to Minnesota for the funeral services of his grandmother, the Twins are set to place the lefty reliever on the bereavement list on Thursday and call up right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin.
Thielbar had been waiting for his family to finalize the plans before arranging a trip back to the Twin Cities to be with them. In the meantime, Thielbar said, pitching has been "a good escape for me."
"Tough situation for Caleb and his family. All of our thoughts and prayers are with him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Caleb's fine. He's doing it exactly the way he wanted it to be done."
Thielbar was available in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Rays but did not pitch and he'll also be available on Wednesday. He's set to fly north on Thursday, and he'll rejoin the team on Saturday but can't be activated until Sunday because he must spend at least three days on the bereavement list.
It's not necessarily a guarantee at this point that Tonkin's first trip to the Majors will last only three days. The Twins will have to make a corresponding move before Sunday's game to activate Thielbar, but assistant general manager Rob Antony made it clear Minnesota could keep the organization's No. 20 prospect with the big league club.
"It gives us a chance to see him up here, to get his feet wet. If he performs, maybe he stays," Antony said. "We explained to him that this is an emergency recall situation with the bereavement. But if you go up there and throw the ball well, we'll see what happens."
Tonkin, 23, got word of his impending promotion Tuesday afternoon after pitching a scoreless inning in Triple-A Rochester's 8-7 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 6-foot-7 right-hander has posted a 1.89 ERA, 45 strikeouts and only 11 walks over 39 innings in 35 games this season with Double-A New Britain and Rochester.
Gardenhire recalled on Tuesday the first time he saw Tonkin, during a workout at the Metrodome. Gardenhire remembered a "big, tall, skinny kid winging it," despite an obvious lack of mechanical polish, and he echoed the club's scouts' belief that the Twins should sign him. After six seasons in the Minors, that move appears to be paying off.
"This kid has got some kind of arm, and we're starting to see the benefits of it right now. He's moving up," Gardenhire said. "In Spring Training, we liked it. He throws really hard with a powerful sinker. He throws elbows and arms all over the place, so [we're] excited for him.
"It took a little while for him to master the strike zone and get some mechanics, where he could get the ball where he wanted to. We saw it in Spring Training. We liked it. Good, hard sinker. I think he started the season pretty slow, not going great. But as of late he's started winging it pretty good. Good for him, and now it's time for him to get an opportunity."
Ramirez returns to Minnesota for testing
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Twins had two pieces of good news on the injury front on Tuesday, regarding outfielders Josh Willingham and Darin Mastroianni, and a less-than-encouraging update on Wilkin Ramirez.
Assistant general manager Rob Antony said that Ramirez, on the 15-day disabled list, still hasn't improved much since sustaining a concussion on May 26. Ramirez was sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment on June 20, played three games with Class A Advanced Fort Myers and returned to the Twin Cities for further testing.
"He is not doing great. He's still having headaches, so the symptoms are all still there," Antony said. "We're just going to basically take it easy with him, do very little with him until the symptoms start to subside."
Antony had better news on Willingham, who started light exercises back in Minnesota, less than a week after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to fix a torn meniscus. The procedure will keep him sidelined for four to six weeks, but Antony said Willingham hasn't experienced any swelling, which is a good sign.
"Everything's going fine there," Antony said.
Down in Fort Myers, Fla., Mastroianni worked out with the Twins' Gulf Coast League affiliate for the second day in a row. Mastroianni is on the 60-day disabled list with a left ankle stress reaction.
Twins' offense lacking stolen bases
ST. PETERSBURG -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't have to hesitate for long when asked about his club's offensive identity.
"We're not a speed team, for sure," Gardenhire said. "We have a few guys who can run. We're more of a base-to-base team."
There's a reason Gardenhire could so emphatically say the Twins aren't going to wow anyone with their speed. They've stolen 29 bases this season, more than only the Tigers in the American League, and only three players have more than one steal. Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon have swiped eight bases, and Aaron Hicks has stolen six. Beyond that, seven players have one stolen base -- and that's it.
They've been caught 17 times, and their 63 percent success rate is lowest in the AL.
"We have a lot of big guys in the middle that are base-to-base. We're not a hit-and-run team," Gardenhire said. "We've got a few guys that can, but we don't have enough speed to be able to do that to really make a lot of movement."
While that puts a limit on what the Twins can do offensively, it also makes them reliant on having a productive lineup, Nos. 1-9. If everyone's not clicking, or if everyone clicks at different times, they're probably going to struggle to consistently score runs. That happened again on Tuesday, as the Twins managed only three hits in the first eight innings and five total in a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
"We rely on the big guys in the middle maybe to hit some balls off the wall or over the wall. We're definitely kind of in the middle," Gardenhire said. "We need production all the way up and down, absolutely.
"We have people. You have it up and down the lineup. We know we can score runs. But we haven't put it together. We haven't really had a run where we've put together five, six, seven runs a game, and our pitchers have gone deep into games. It's all about getting a group together and doing the same things."