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Suspended Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco ramping up for July 2 return

Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco (11) fields a ball during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox in March. Polanco was suspended 80 games after testing positive for performance enchancing drugs. Douglas DeFelice / USA Today Sports

DETROIT — Jorge Polanco's 80-game steroid suspension is winding down, so his preparation is ramping up for a July 2 return to the Twins lineup.

The shortstop is scheduled to start a 15-day rehab assignment Sunday, June 17, at Triple-A Rochester that would position him to be activated for Minnesota's 81st game, the opener of a three-game interleague series at Milwaukee.

Polanco has been in Fort Myers, Fla., playing in extended spring training camps and working with minor-league infield coordinator Sam Perlozzo.

"Our plan is to make (the rehab stint) all Rochester," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Wednesday. "It's a little different than an injured player who's not playing; he's been playing in extended and getting everyday work. Now we'll just get him to Rochester and get him to play games."

Polanco spent the early portion of his suspension working on strength, conditioning and mobility before playing extended spring training games. Falvey said Polanco has done "everything we've asked him," adding that reports about his performance and attitude have been good.

"He's been doing a great job. He's been great with the young players. He's been a leader," Falvey said.

Nick Gordon has been Rochester's everyday shortstop but he might be moved to second base to accommodate Polanco's rehab stint as the Twins try to work out a rotation for the Red Wings middle infield.

Falvey acknowledged being away from the team and the disappointment of not being able to help the Twins in the first half of the season weigh heavily on Polanco, who apologized to his teammates in a clubhouse meeting when his suspension was announced in March.

"Whether or not he says anything to the team (again) is up to him, but I think (the transition) will be seamless," Falvey said. "He's a guy who has such good relationships in that room already. He's stayed in touch with certain players in there."

Sort of homecoming

Outfielder Ryan LaMarre is the most popular Twin at Comerica Park this week, with a boisterous entourage to prove it.

The former University of Michigan standout grew up in Jackson, Mich., about 80 miles west of Detroit. He remembers attending his first major-league game at the old Tiger Stadium and playing in a high school all-star game at Comerica Park.

About 200 friends and relatives attended Tuesday night's game, and LaMarre posed for pictures with his grandparents on the field during batting practice. They cheered when LaMarre drove in Minnesota's first run in a 6-4 victory with a sacrifice fly.

"It was really fun, awesome to have my family here," LaMarre said. "It was a very special moment for all of us. It's been along journey with many ups and downs. As excited as I was, I think my family was just as excited, and deservedly so."

LaMarre, who was back in the lineup Thursday, earned a job as a non-roster invitee to spring training and has spent most of the season in Minnesota, getting regular playing time while center fielder Byron Buxton recovers from a broken toe.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "Obviously a lot of hard work, but everyone at this level has had to work hard. I'm sure a lot of people have gone through those trials. I'm definitely appreciative of it, but I'm just trying to earn it every single day that I get an opportunity."

Mauer update

Joe Mauer was back in the lineup for the Rochester Red Wings Wednesday night, scheduled to play first base during his brief rehab assignment.

After going 0 for 6 with a strikeout in a double-header Tuesday night, Mauer reported no issues with concussion symptoms that have sidelined him since May 18. He even asked to play the second game to get more at-bats.

"He's feeling good, so that's a plus," said Falvey.

The earliest Mauer would rejoin the Twins is Friday in Cleveland.

Briefly

Right-hander Ervin Santana is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday in Fort Myers, his first on a mound since suffering a setback earlier this month in his rehab from February finger surgery.

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