The Minnesota Twins are expecting the face of their franchise back in the lineup to help welcome a new face to the rotation.
With Tommy Milone starting for the first time since being acquired last month, Joe Mauer will return from the disabled list in Houston Monday night for the opener of a three-game series with the Astros.
Milone (6-3, 3.55 ERA) was forced out of Oakland's stacked rotation in early July and traded to Minnesota (52-64) for outfielder Sam Fuld on July 31. The left-hander made one start for Triple-A Rochester, allowing a run and six hits over seven innings on Tuesday, before the Twins shipped Kevin Correia to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.
The 27-year-old can now get back to work on an 11-start big league stretch without a loss, over which he's gone 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA. Considering Twins starters rank 28th with a 4.96 ERA, Milone is certainly more valued in Minnesota than he was in Oakland.
"He's a guy who knows how to pitch in the big leagues and has a good track record," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told MLB's official website. "We're excited to have him up here. He pitched well in his start at Triple-A."
Milone rejoins former Oakland battery mate Kurt Suzuki, with whom he posted a 2.99 ERA, the lowest its been with any catcher he's worked with.
"I loved it," Suzuki said. "I've had some pretty good success with him as a teammate. The one thing I told them was how great a guy he was. He works hard. He does everything the right way."
Milone is 1-1 with a 4.78 ERA in five career starts against Houston while holding former teammate Chris Carter to 1 for 11 and Matt Dominguez, who has a seven-game hitting streak, to 1 for 10 with a home run.
Mauer, a .167 hitter in 11 games against Houston, returns from a 34-game absence due to a right oblique injury. He went 6 for 15 on a rehab assignment with Single-A Cedar Rapids, and will now face struggling Astros starter Brad Peacock.
Peacock (3-8, 5.44) has dropped three straight starts and allowed 15 runs with nine walks in 8 2-3 innings over his last two. A brief stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City between those starts didn't seem to do much.
"I need to go out there and relax and have fun and pitch instead of being anxious out there," said Peacock, who entered the rotation in promising fashion with a 3.71 ERA through 11 starts.
His only start against Minnesota on Aug. 4, 2013, resulted in a loss after limiting the Twins to three runs and four hits while striking out 10 in seven innings. Oswaldo Arcia went 1 for 3 with a home run.
Arcia wasn't in the lineup for the last two games of Minnesota's series in Oakland because of a minor back injury, but the Twins were able to salvage a 6-1 win Sunday and end a four-game skid. Trevor Plouffe was also out of the lineup after fouling a ball off his foot on Saturday. Both are considered day to day.
Houston (49-69), which had won a season-best five straight at home, missed out on a three-game sweep of Texas with Sunday's 6-2 loss. It did get major league hits leader Jose Altuve back after he sat out Saturday with a sore neck.