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By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- It's unclear if Joe Mauer will be behind the plate for the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
If he is, Mauer could see a different Francisco Liriano from the last time they formed a battery when the visiting Twins and Kansas City Royals continue a three-game series.
Mauer sat out Monday's 10-7 victory in the series opener after he showed up at Kauffman Stadium with a sore thumb suffered the day before in a 6-3 win at Cleveland.
"I have no time frame," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website about the superstar's status. "Day to day is what they told me, and that's where we'll be."
Mauer has not caught Liriano (1-5, 7.20 ERA) since the left-hander yielded four runs over 2 2-3 innings of relief in a 10-6 loss to Detroit on May 25.
Liriano, however, is back in an injury-plagued rotation with Minnesota (21-33) looking for answers with a major-league worst 6.20 starting ERA. Liriano made his first start since May 7 on Wednesday and gave up three hits over six innings with a season-high nine strikeouts in a 4-0 victory over Oakland.
Liriano had been 0-6 with a 9.10 ERA in his last seven starts.
"We need him in the rotation," Gardenhire said. "I think the story's been told too many times about how good his stuff is. He's got to go out on the field and get it done."
Liriano is 4-5 with a 4.55 ERA in 10 career starts against the Royals (23-30), limiting Kansas City RBI leader Billy Butler to four hits in 24 at-bats.
Minnesota survived a subpar outing in Monday's opener as Cole De Vries gave up five runs over five-plus innings in his first career victory.
He was backed by a patchwork lineup without Mauer. Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham each hit two-run homers and Jamey Carroll and Ben Revere each had three hits and two RBIs.
"It shows we can ad-lib a little bit," Gardenhire said. "We can pop a baseball, and I've always said if our pitcher gives us a chance, we can win some games."
The Twins have won six of seven as they seek their second four-game win streak of the season. They have won eight of 12 on the road.
MIke Moustakas went 3 for 4 with a homer, three runs scored and two RBIs for Kansas City, which saw its major league-worst home record fall to 7-19.
Royals starters have alternated scoreless outings with poor ones in the first four games of this six-game homestand. If that pattern holds, Bruce Chen (4-5, 4.86) could be in line for a great effort after rookie Will Smith was tagged for seven runs Monday.
Chen is 4-1 with a 4.71 ERA in his last five outings after limiting the Indians to three runs over five innings in Wednesday's 6-3 victory. He went 0-4 with a 4.98 ERA in his first six 2012 starts.
The left-hander lasted a season-low 2 2-3 innings and allowed six runs in a 7-4 loss to the Twins on April 29, dropping to 2-4 with a 5.29 ERA in eight starts against them. Mauer is 4 for 18 against Chen and Morneau 3 for 12.
Updated June 5, 2012