Twins manager Rocco Baldelli walked away encouraged from a Saturday morning conversation with Max Kepler after the outfielder had told him his left hamstring was at about 90 to 95 percent. He might not have been ready to go out and play center field, but he was sure getting closer.
Just hours later, in the second inning of Saturday’s game, Kepler suffered a setback that will keep him out for at least 10 days. While hustling down the line to try to beat out a grounder, Kepler strained his left hamstring, necessitating an injured list stint.
Kepler will stay back while the Twins head to Baltimore and then Kansas City this week to get treatment every day, but a magnetic resonance imaging exam “did not look overly serious as far as any damage in there,” Baldelli said, and the manager indicated it could be closer to 10 days than anything else for Kepler.
“Kep had been doing a lot better,” Baldelli said. “I was a little surprised that when he ran a little harder on that ball that his hamstring, he tweaked it.”
The Twins called up catcher Ben Rortvedt on Sunday morning, which will now allow Willians Astudillo to once again shift around the field. They plan to rely almost exclusively on Rob Refsnyder in center with all of their original options — Byron Buxton, Jake Cave and Kepler — sidelined.
Refsnyder had never played center field at the major-league level before this month, but has played a capable center field and hit well since his call up. Baldelli mentioned Kyle Garlick and Alex Kirilloff as potential options there, though Garlick has never played center professionally, and Kirilloff has played in just 16 games in center as a minor leaguer.
Baldelli also mentioned minor leaguers Keon Broxton, Aaron Whitefield and Gilberto Celestino, who is on the 40-man roster, as names who they have discussed. But for the time being, the plan in center seems to begin and end with Refsnyder.
“We’re going to ride Rob Refsnyder out there probably every day when possible,” Baldelli said. “If we know that Ref isn’t going to be able to play center on a given day or for a few days, we’ll probably have to find someone who’s going to go out there and play some center field. But in the meantime, we’re going to let Rob play and just let him go.”
When the Twins first placed Kenta Maeda on the injured list, it was to address an adductor strain that had affected him in his prior two starts.
Now, Baldelli said that issue has resolved, but Maeda’s stay on the injured list will be longer than initially expected as the starter is dealing with “general soreness” in his “forearm, bicep, elbow area,” Baldelli said.
Baldelli said the soreness is something that Maeda has pitched through this season, but after he threw a bullpen in recent days, they determined that they needed to give him more time to rest his arm.
The Twins will continue to monitor and treat him, and it’s possible that Maeda could start playing catch again next week.
“It’s something that we want to make sure that we get rid of,” Baldelli said. “We don’t want to be looking at this for the next four months. We want to make sure that this is something that while we’re talking this IL stint, that we’re able to shake.”
Baldelli said Luis Arraez, who is on the injured list with a shoulder strain, will have to let his shoulder calm down, rest and then begin strengthening exercises before he is able to return.
Baldelli said on Saturday that an MRI showed “some sign of a subluxation of the shoulder.”
“We’ll see what he’s feeling like next week and maybe the week after that, we’re having a different discussion,” Baldelli said.
Devin Smeltzer, who is on the injured list with elbow inflammation, resumed throwing this week. Smeltzer said he never experienced pain, just some tingling that has affected him since spring.
The symptoms subsided after shutting things down for about a week and a half, and by the time he had resumed throwing, he had gone a couple days with no symptoms at all.
“This has kind of been lingering on for awhile, and (I) just was pushing through it, and it wasn’t getting any better and velo was suffering a little bit. And it was just time to speak up and get myself right,” Smeltzer said. “I wasn’t doing anything right for the team that way. If I’m not at my best, I’m only going to hurt the team. So fighting through it wasn’t worth it.”