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Injury may prematurely end Stewart's Twins career

MINNEAPOLIS -- Shannon Stewart might have played his last
game with the Minnesota Twins.

With severe pain in his left foot stemming from an aggravation
of an earlier injury that prompted a six-week stint on the disabled
list, Stewart shook his head when asked Monday if he thought he
could come back this season.

"To be honest, I don't know," he said, sitting in a chair in
the clubhouse with a big walking boot on the floor in front of his
cubicle. "I've done everything I can do before, and the doctor is
optimistic -- thinks I can. The way I feel, I don't know."

The 32-year-old Stewart, who sparked the Twins to a
come-from-behind AL Central title in 2003 after his All-Star break
arrival in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, will be a free agent
this fall and in all likelihood won't be re-signed.

Stewart has had plantar fasciitis problems in both feet over the
past three years, limiting him to 92 games in 2004 and only 44 this
season. The plantar fascia is a long tissue that connects the heel
bone to the base of the toes.

Back for only two weeks before getting hurt again, Stewart said
this occurrence is the worst he's had.

"I'm at the point right now that I'm frustrated, and I know the
team is probably frustrated."

At best, Stewart -- who would have been a candidate to be dealt
before the July 31 trading deadline -- will be back in September.
But judging by his demeanor and tone, it doesn't sound promising.

"I haven't been healthy at all this season," he said.

The prognosis for center fielder Torii Hunter is better.
Eligible to be activated from the disabled list on July 31, Hunter
said Monday that he would be ready to return then from the stress
fracture in his left foot.

"I'm convinced," he said. "Give me 15 days, I'll be straight.
Trust me."

Hunter, who broke his ankle and missed the last two months of
the 2005 season, suffered this injury a month ago but assumed it
was a strain and simply tried to tape his foot each game and play
through the pain. On Saturday, it hurt too much to even do that.

"I couldn't even move," Hunter said.

For now, a frustrated Hunter can only rest and wait. With a $12
million team option on his contract next year, Hunter -- who turns
31 on Tuesday -- was a candidate to be traded, too. But getting hurt
diminished that possibility.

"I'm not going to worry about it," he said. "That's up to
those guys."

The Twins had Jason Tyner in center field and Rondell White in
left field for Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with
Jason Kubel as the designated hitter.

White, who has a long history of injuries in his career, was
signed as a DH so he could stay healthier. With Kubel fighting sore
knees, manager Ron Gardenhire had no choice but to use White in the
field. Rookie Josh Rabe, just recalled from Triple-A Rochester,
might play left on Tuesday, Gardenhire said.

Kubel, who missed the entire 2005 season after a severe left
knee injury, had an MRI on his right knee on Monday that revealed
minor inflammation and a little bit of fluid but no structural
damage.

Team doctors have told him that pain, including in the right one
from overcompensation, is a normal part of the recovery process.
Gardenhire hopes to be able to return the rookie, who is batting
.298 with seven homers and 24 RBI in 141 at-bats, to regular time
in left field soon.

"He's going to have to work through it," the manager said.