Now, they’re asking him to help them win a second straight AL Central title.
Milton will make his dramatic return to the Twins’ rotation as Minnesota continues a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.
Tied with the Chicago White Sox for the division lead, the Twins revealed earlier this week that Milton would be available for the stretch run.
The six-year veteran, who helped Minnesota capture its first division crown since 1991 last season, had surgery March 5 to repair a deteriorated bone in his left knee as well as having approximately 30 pieces of loose cartilage removed.
Expected to have their top left-hander sidelined four-to-six months, the Twins signed veteran left-hander Kenny Rogers to fill the vacant slot in their rotation.
With right-hander Joe Mays out with an elbow injury, Milton will provide manager Ron Gardenhire with a much-needed boost to his starting five.
Milton will be making his first start since allowing a run and two hits over six strong innings against Anaheim in Game 3 of the AL Division Series last October.
“He’s ready to go up to 80 pitches or so,” Gardenhire said of Milton. “If he uses them properly, that should be five or six innings.
“We want to see what he does, but we also need the win. We’re in a pennant race.”
The Twins held on to a share of first place with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Cleveland. Kyle Lohse pitched 7 1-3 strong innings and Cristian Guzman belted his first homer in more than a year as Minnesota improved to 8-4 in September.
The White Sox beat Boston 3-1 on Saturday to maintain the deadlock atop the division.
The Indians, who have won nine of 16 meetings with Minnesota this year, have lost eight of their last 11.
STANDINGS: Twins - 1st place (tied), AL Central. Indians - 4th place, 14 1/2 GB, AL Central.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Milton (13-9, 4.84 ERA in 2002). Milton is 5-6 with a 6.26 ERA in 17 career starts against Cleveland. He is just 5-11 with a 5.22 ERA in 27 career September starts.
INDIANS PROBABLE STARTER: Cliff Lee (3-1, 3.06 ERA). Lee is unbeaten in his last four outings, but did not receive a decision in last Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The rookie left-hander surrendered two runs and four hits over 5 1-3 innings, striking out four and walking four. Lee has yielded three earned runs or fewer in each of his six appearances this season. He allowed one run and two hits over 5 1-3 innings in his only previous start against Cleveland last year.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Twins - Doug Mientiewicz, .306 avg.; Torii Hunter, 25 HRs and 94 RBIs; Shannon Stewart, 82 runs; Guzman, 16 SBs. Indians - Jody Gerut, .282 avg., 21 HRs and 72 RBIs; Casey Blake, 75 runs; Milton Bradley, 17 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Indians, 9-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Twins - SS Guzman had gone 600 plate appearances without homering, dating to Sept. 11, 2000. … OF Hunter is batting just .179 against the Indians this season, but has homered twice against them so far in this series. … LHP Eddie Guardado has converted 35 of 38 save opportunities this year. Indians - The Indians are 1-1 on their 10-game homestand. … Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro said the club has some concerns about OF Bradley’s propensity for injuries. Bradley is out for the season with a back injury, and has been sidelined four times the past two years with various ailments. Bradley played in 98 games for the Indians last season and had appeared in 101 before getting hurt this year. … Cleveland needs one more win to take the season series from Minnesota for the second time in three years. In 2001, when the Indians won the Central, they beat the Twins 14 of 19 times.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Twins - 39-36 on the road; Indians - 36-37 at home.
INJURIES: Twins - RHP Mike Fetters (elbow), 60-day DL. Indians - INF John McDonald (back), 15-day DL; OF Bradley (back), 15-day DL; OF Matt Lawton (finger), 15-day DL; OF Ellis Burks (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Ryan Ludwick (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Jason Bere (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dave Elder (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Bob Wickman (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Mark Wohlers (elbow), 60-day DL; IF Ricky Gutierrez (back), 60-day DL; SS Omar Vizquel (knee), 60-day DL.