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DET@LAA: Pineiro pitches seven strong for the win

Another day, another game Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gets one step closer to seeing a healthy Minnesota lineup on the field.

That started Tuesday, when Denard Span returned to the Twins' lineup, and it will continue Wednesday when they square off against the Angels at Angel Stadium.

The Twins center fielder was in the lineup after missing two months because of a concussion and is finally ready to do what he can to help the team win.

"I haven't played in two months, but I hold myself to high expectations. I'm going to get back to where I was. When, I don't know. But I'm going to get back there," Span said. "I'm going to work and do what I have to do, whether it's in the cage or on the field or whatever and do whatever it takes to get back to that feeling."

Knowing Span's importance to the team and that of Justin Morneau -- who will likely return from a herniated disk fragment in his neck in a few weeks -- Gardenhire sees his lineup taking shape again. It will be Joel Pineiro's job Wednesday to shut down the Twins and their newly returned spark plug. Yet, with some hefty struggles in his last few starts, that may not be such an easy task.

Beaten around in his last three outings, the right-hander has lasted a total of only nine innings and given up 15 earned runs on 22 hits. Particularly troubling for the sinkerball pitcher is that he has given up a home run in all three of those contests.

"You're always concerned when a guy's not locating pitches," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Pineiro's last start. "[Pitching coach] Mike Butcher, the medical staff and, most important, J.P. feel this is a mechanical issue."

Pineiro doesn't believe that the issues he is having are related to the back problems that kept him on the disabled list for the first month of the season.

"There's nothing wrong, physically," Pineiro said. "I wish I had an excuse."

Twins: Baker takes hill
Right-hander Scott Baker will be on the mound Wednesday for the Twins after a hard-luck loss his last time out against the Rangers. He gave up two runs on eight hits over seven innings but fell to 8-6 with a 2.86 ERA.

In his career against the Angels, Baker is 1-5 with a 4.49 ERA.

• Trevor Plouffe made his third career start at second base on Tuesday against the Angels, with Gardenhire hoping he can adjust to the new position as Alexi Casilla recovers from a strained right hamstring.

"It's a challenging team to play against, the middle guys are going to have to be active," Gardenhire said. "One thing we can't do is let the pressure get to him. We know he can hit, now he's gotta get the other part of it, too."

Gardenhire said he also liked getting Plouffe into the lineup because he played baseball at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, Calif., which is about 45 miles north of Anaheim.

"There's some incentive here, he grew up here, this is his home, he played a high school state championship that he pitched in [in 2003]," Gardenhire said. "So some incentive for him to come out here, a little motivation and put him in the field and see what happens. Plouffey's up here to hit, that's what he's been doing in the Minor Leagues, so put him in there."

Angels: Weaver to appeal suspension
Right-hander Jered Weaver was suspended six games and fined an undisclosed amount of money for throwing at Tigers catcher Alex Avila, Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday.

Weaver decided to appeal the suspension, but if the suspension is upheld, he's expected to miss only one start. His next start is scheduled for Friday's series opener against the Mariners.

"I knew that there was going to be something [punishment]," Weaver said. "It is what it is ... I kind of wanted my voice heard a little bit in the situation -- see how they feel about it -- and then go from there."

Worth noting
• Newly inducted Hall of Fame pitcher and Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven threw out the honorary first pitch before Tuesday's game. Blyleven is a native of nearby Garden Grove, Calif., and pitched for the Angels from 1989-92, earning American League Comeback Player of the Year after going 17-5 his first season in Anaheim.

• Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick is 39-of-103 (.379) against Minnesota lifetime. Additionally, he's gone 14-of-38 (.368) in his last 11 games against the squad.

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