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Nick Punto


Punto sat out Tuesday's game with a bruised knee.


Punto went 2-for-4 Sunday, extending his career-high hitting streak to 15 games.


Punto and the Minnesota Twins avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $690,000 contract on Tuesday. The 28-year-old took over the second base job early in the season and batted .239 with 18 doubles, six home runs, 13 stolen bases and 26 RBIs in 112 games.


The injury-riddled Minnesota Twins got a key infielder back from the disabled list over the weekend, as Punto returned from a hamstring injury. The 27-year-old infielder missed exactly a month. He will take over at second base for the Twins, who had Michael Cuddyer go on the disabled list for a bruised left hand this weekend. Rookie Luis Rodriguez is expected to take over at third for Cuddyer.


Out since early June with a hamstring injury, Punto passed a key test Monday when he ran the bases at full speed. The Twins' middle infielder will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday. If all goes well, he could return to the Twins this weekend or Monday, when the club kicks off a road trip in Anaheim against the Angels.


On Friday, the Minnesota Twins placed Punto on the 15-day disabled list with a pulled right hamstring. To replace Punto, who was batting .293 with a homer and eight RBI in 37 games, the Twins recalled infielder Terry Tiffee from Triple-A Rochester.


Punto left Minnesota's 4-3 win over Cleveland Thursday in the eighth inning, after pulling his right hamstring. The Twins' second baseman came off the field limping when he was caught stealing in the seventh.


Punto's primary competition for playing time at second base, Luis Rivas, has gone on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain. But Punto has been getting most of the playing time for the Twins anyway. He's in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak in which he's a .357 hitter. For the season, Punto is at .292 with a .346 on-base percentage in 132 plate appearances. He has scored 17 runs in 36 games.


Punto has been bothered by a sore right calf muscle, which has kept him out of the Minnesota lineup and may force him onto the disabled list. The 27-year-old Punto hasn't played since Sunday. Luis Rivas has been starting at second base in his place.


Punto's bat has been better of late, with the middle infielder going 6-for-16 (.375) over Minnesota's last four contests, and he may be supplanting Luis Rivas as the Twins' second baseman. Punto has started at second the last two days, with Rivas mired in a 2-for-22 slump.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire clearly likes Punto as a player, and was favoring him in the battle for the shortstop job going into spring training. Jason Bartlett deserved to start at short, but Rivas has stagnated as a player. He arrived as a 21-year-old prospect in 2000, but has shown little improvement since he was a rookie. It's understandable that the Twins are looking at other options for second base.