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Duran nearing sooner-than-expected return from injury for Twins

DETROIT – Saturday marks the one-month anniversary of the last time Jhoan Duran faced hitters, back in a Grapefruit League game in Fort Myers, Fla. It feels like even longer to the Twins closer.

"It's been weird. I've got a lot of time not being on the mound," Duran said Friday. "I'm feeling so excited to be there."

Excited, he said, after standing on a mound amid a light rain in the Twins bullpen about five hours before Friday's game and throwing 23 pitches. It's a significant step back from his right oblique strain, a good sign that his time on the injured list could end later this month.

Count Rocco Baldelli among the surprised.

"When he initially hurt himself, we were thinking May as a possibility. You just don't know," Baldelli said. "Luckily, it does seem like it was more on the minor end of things, but he's still not out of the woods. He needs to go prove that he's healthy and good."

Duran will get another chance Tuesday in Baltimore. If that bullpen session goes well, Duran could begin a rehab assignment by late next week.

His presence on the road trip — injured players normally don't travel with the team — is an indication that the Twins believe Duran is making progress. Pitching coach Pete Maki "wanted to see my mechanics and that everything is ready when I come back for games," Duran said.

Woods Richardson recalled

Simeon Woods Richardson was called up from Class AAA St. Paul to start the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. Over his two starts with the Saints, both at Nashville, he threw eight shutout innings — followed by an awful inning in which he faced eight hitters and retired only one, with the other seven all scoring.

"It's called baseball. It happens all the time. Guys made a good adjustment, I missed a couple of spots. Single, double, single, single, it starts [accumulating]," Woods Richardson said with a shrug. "I had the same attack, convicted in every pitch the same, did everything I could. And sometimes in life, that happens."

Well, so do unexpected opportunities, and Woods Richardson, who has pitched one Twins game in each of the past two seasons, sounded thrilled to receive this one. That it comes at Comerica Park, the site of his big league debut in 2022, makes it even cooler.

"It's where it all started. I remember pretty much every little thing about that day," a 5-2 loss to the Tigers in which he gave up three runs on three hits in five innings. "Kind of fun to be back."

Especially since he believes he's getting close to staying for good. Woods Richardson spent the spring perfecting his new slightly lower arm slot — the one he used as a third baseman back in high school in Texas, he said — and he's seeing results.

"I'm getting pretty comfortable with it, especially the secondary pitches. Fastball veto is up, so that's always happy to see," said the 23-year-old righthander. "I'm getting back to being an athlete."

Etc.

• Outfielder Trevor Larnach singled, doubled and walked for Class A Fort Myers on Thursday, his first rehab game since suffering a foot injury during training camp.

• With Thursday's game rained out, pitcher Pablo López threw a bingo party at the team's hotel. "Pablo's got a tremendous, soothing, just golden-velvety voice. He was on the mic for bingo, which he planned, and he got food and catered it for all the guys," Baldelli said. "Almost everyone in our traveling party was there. The guys had a blast — a good way to get the whole team together."

• Second baseman Edouard Julien made his first start against a lefthander on Friday, facing Detroit's Tarik Skubal. "He's been swinging the bat good," including Wednesday's home run off Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia, Baldelli said. "That's pretty much it."