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Twins closer Duran could begin rehab assignment next week

The Twins could welcome closer Jhoan Duran back into their bullpen next week, perhaps after they conclude their current seven-game homestand.

Duran threw 21 pitches in a live batting practice session Friday at Target Field, the first time he faced hitters since he injured his oblique during spring training.

"I woke up and I had a lot of energy today like my kid," said a smiling Duran, who faced Jair Camargo and Jose Miranda.

The plan for Duran, manager Rocco Baldelli said, is likely pitching in a couple of minor league games before joining the Twins bullpen. Griffin Jax, Steven Okert and Cole Sands have earned saves in Duran's absence.

Duran recorded 27 saves in 32 opportunities last season with a 2.45 ERA in 62⅓ innings.

"He was supposed to throw 20 [pitches] and he wanted an extra one, so it tells you he is feeling good," Baldelli said. "His stuff was normal. He threw the ball around the zone the way you would want him to. He looked like himself. He looked very comfortable, and he looked like someone who is just about ready to go face some hitters in some real games."

Duran says he felt "good and strong" throwing all his offspeed pitches.

"The first one, you know, so it was good," Duran said. "It was cold outside, but it was good."

Kepler nearing return

Max Kepler had a single in three at-bats as the St. Paul Saints' designated hitter in his first game of a rehab assignment Thursday, with one walk and one strikeout, and he progressed to playing in right field Friday.

Kepler is eligible to return from the 10-day injured list and he could return to the Twins as early as Sunday.

"Sunday or Monday is a possibility," Baldelli said. "We'll make a determination after he gets through his game in the outfield just where he's at and we'll make a call. I think it's close. I need him to tell us he's ready before we can make any calls, though."

Etc.

• Shortstop Carlos Correa, who has been sidelined for the past week with an intercostal strain, has been exercising in the weight room, but he hasn't advanced to rotational movements like swinging. "Carlos' rehab has gone pretty positively," Baldelli said. "He hasn't gotten to rotational movements yet, but I think that could be close."

• The Twins activated reliever Josh Staumont from the 15-day injured list and optioned him to Class AAA. Staumont, who signed a one-year contract with the Twins in the offseason, has given up four hits and three runs in 3⅔ innings at St. Paul with five strikeouts and one walk.

Simeon Woods Richardson tossed five solid innings and Tony Kemp hit his first minor league home run since 2017, but the Saints gave up five runs in the eighth inning at Indianapolis to lose 7-2, their fourth loss in a row.