TORONTO -- Eduardo Nunez has been swinging a hot bat, so Twins manager Ron Gardenhire rewarded him with his first start at shortstop this season on Wednesday against the Blue Jays.
Nunez had started five games in left field, four games at third base and one in right field but none at his natural position of shortstop. He entered Wednesday hitting .305/.328/.441 on the year with two homers, two doubles and 10 RBIs in 22 games.
Nunez went 0-for-4 from the No. 9 spot in Minnesota's 7-2 win over Toronto.
It gave regular shortstop Eduardo Escobar a rare day of rest, as it was the first time he didn't start at shortstop since May 21.
"We're just moving them around," Gardenhire said. "He's played every day, and I wanted to see Nunez in there. He's been swinging the bat good, too. I like Nunez."
Dozier ready for Tigers despite exiting with tight back
TORONTO -- Twins second baseman Brian Dozier left Wednesday's 7-2 win over the Blue Jays in the fourth inning with lower back tightness but said he expects to return to the lineup against the Tigers on Friday.
Dozier was involved in a collision in shallow center field during the second inning with shortstop Eduardo Nunez while trying to catch a pop fly from Erik Kratz that hit off Nunez's glove for a bloop double. Dozier told the training staff that he took a knee to the back on the play, and it worsened a stiff lower back that was also plaguing him on Tuesday after playing on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre.
"It kind of started yesterday and gradually got worse this morning but was tolerable to play," Dozier said. "But the second inning, I fell awkwardly, and that didn't help it."
Dozier remained in the game after the play and batted in the third inning with a groundout to shortstop. But he was removed for Eduardo Escobar at second base in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Prior to the injury, Dozier had played every inning of every game for the Twins this year, leading the club with 14 homers and 14 stolen bases. He said he'll continue to get treatment on his back on the off-day on Thursday. He dealt with a similar issue last year against the Mariners.
"I already got some treatment during the game, and I'll have some more tonight, so it already feels better," Dozier said. "It's one of those things where I'm not coming out of the game until I can't physically play, and I couldn't. But it happened last year in Seattle. It's good we have a day off."
Twins option Pinto to work on defensive skills
TORONTO -- With Kendrys Morales set to be the everyday designated hitter for the Twins moving forward, the club decided to option rookie catcher Josmil Pinto to Triple-A Rochester after Wednesday's 7-2 win over the Blue Jays. A corresponding roster move will come before Friday's game in Detroit.
Pinto started 19 games at designated hitter as a way to get his bat into the lineup with Kurt Suzuki serving as the primary catcher this season. Suzuki made his 46th start behind the plate on Wednesday with right-hander Phil Hughes on the mound, while Pinto made just 18 starts at catcher this year before being sent down.
"He needs to play -- it's not fair to him to sit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He needs to get at-bats right now. He's had issues throwing and issues catching the ball lately. I think it's probably due to not getting enough reps back there. I think this is the right thing to do. He needs to work on some things mechanically behind the plate with his throwing and his catching and framing the ball."
Pinto has had trouble defensively this year, as he's yet to throw out an opposing basestealer in 16 attempts and has made five errors. He's also still working on his pitch-calling and framing skills.
Triple-A catchers Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann are both on the 40-man roster, and one of the two is expected to be called up to replace Pinto. Fryer is the frontrunner to be recalled, as Herrmann has been dealing with a wrist issue.
Pinto, 25, started off hot offensively but cooled down since May 1. Some of his scuffles could come from a lack of consistent playing time, but he hit just .200/.227/.329 with two homers and seven RBIs in 23 games since May 1.
"This is going to help him," Gardenhire said. "This kid has a chance to be a starting catcher and not a backup with his offense. So it's the right thing for him to just go catch."
Hicks to have shoulder exam; Fuld near return
TORONTO -- Center fielder Aaron Hicks was held out of the lineup for a fourth straight game Wednesday with a sore right shoulder, and he's heading back to Minnesota to have it examined on the Twins' off-day on Thursday.
Hicks injured his shoulder while making a game-ending diving catch in center field on Saturday, and he is still having trouble throwing the ball. Rookie Danny Santana made his fourth straight start in center field in Hicks' absence during the Twins' 7-2 win over the Blue Jays.
Hicks said he's optimistic it's just a minor injury and that he'll be able to avoid the 15-day disabled list, but he admitted that he's still having trouble throwing the ball.
"It's just uncomfortable every time I try to throw," Hicks said. "It's a little painful to throw. So we'll how it goes."
If Hicks needs to go on the DL, it's becoming more likely that fellow center fielder Sam Fuld could be activated from the DL. Fuld has been out since May 7 with a concussion but has been faring well in his rehab assignment with Double-A New Britain.
Fuld homered in his first at-bat on Tuesday and has gone 3-for-9 with a homer and a double in three games so far. Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said Fuld could be ready as soon as Friday's series opener against the Tigers in Detroit.
"I wouldn't rule it out," Antony said. "I think he's getting to the point where he's having consistent days with no problems and no side effects or recurring headaches. He's swinging the bat fine. He had a leadoff home run yesterday."
• The agent for Jason Kubel, who was designated for assignment on Sunday, told Antony his client isn't interested in accepting an assignment to Triple-A Rochester. Kubel will explore his options and see if he can land with another big league club.
• Gardenhire said he has no plans to move Joe Mauer from his No. 3 spot in the lineup despite his recent struggles at the plate. Gardenhire remains optimistic Mauer will snap out of his slump, and he doesn't feel like moving him in the lineup will change anything.
• The Twins have reached agreements with several of their top picks in the First-Year Player Draft, according to Antony. The Twins send their picks from the top 10 rounds to Minnesota for physicals, and the club doesn't announce the signings until they're official. Scouting director Deron Johnson has indicated that he anticipates all of their picks from the first 10 rounds will sign. First-rounder Nick Gordon already inked his deal on Monday, signing for the recommended slot bonus of $3,851,000.