MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Twins cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer returned on Tuesday after missing five games with a back injury, providing some much-needed pop in the middle of a struggling lineup.
Cuddyer was injured when he stumbled while running the bases in Tampa Bay on May 1. He landed on his batting helmet and bruised his back, making it difficult for him to swing a bat or play in the field.
The Twins sorely missed him. They scored just five runs while losing two of three to the Boston Red Sox over the weekend and entered the day with just 16 homers in their first 31 games.
Cuddyer started in right field Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox.
Cuddyer hit 24 home runs last year and had 109 RBIs while hitting between batting champion Joe Mauer and MVP Justin Morneau.
``Everybody always talks about Joe and Justin, but I think what we've learned is how important Cuddy is in all this after losing him for the last six, seven days,'' catcher Mike Redmond said. ``You realize how important those 100 RBIs are in that lineup. We need him. He's a huge part of our offense and a big presence in that lineup.''
His return is even more important after Mauer was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday with a strained left quadriceps muscle. Mauer is hitting .353 and was the only Twins player aside from Torii Hunter who has shown any consistency at the plate.
``Anytime you have a guy like that miss out for a week, you're going to feel it,'' Hunter said of Cuddyer's absence. ``And now we lose Mauer. We need Cuddyer back bad.''
Hunter has moved into the third spot in the lineup while Mauer is out, and said he was looking forward to hitting in front of Cuddyer and Morneau.
Cuddyer played in 150 games last season, and loathes sitting on the bench, especially when his team is struggling offensively.
``Even more so than that, I just hate not playing,'' Cuddyer said. ``Even more so than us not winning games, I just wanted to be out there to play. It's nice to be able to get back out there.''

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