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Twins’ injury-riddled outfield welcomes back Max Kepler

Kepler was activated from the injured list on Saturday after his pain turned from unbearable to manageable and the Twins sent Mark Contreras down as the corresponding move.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Arizona Diamondbacks
Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 17, 2022.
Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports
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Trevor Larnach has been out since late June after having a surgical repair to address his core muscle injury. Max Kepler’s right pinky toe was fractured when the outfielder was hit on the toe with a pitch on July 24. Alex Kirilloff landed on the injured list again with wrist inflammation on Aug. 2. Two days later, Kyle Garlick joined him on the IL with a cartilage fracture near his ribs after crashing into the outfield wall in San Diego.

And while Byron Buxton has never required a trip to the injured list, his knee has been bothering him throughout the season, and he has not been in the outfield since July 31.

To say the Twins’ outfield has seen its fair share of injuries would be an understatement.

“You know injuries are going to happen,” manager Rocco Baldelli said earlier in the week. “You hope they don’t cluster and end up all affecting the same part of your team, but … you just continue to make do and deal and challenge players to come up big for you. That’s all you can do. It’s going to happen.”

The Twins have gotten some good news for at least a couple of their outfielders in recent days.

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Kepler was activated from the injured list on Saturday after his pain turned from unbearable to manageable — his toe won’t actually heal until the offseason when he gets off his feet, he said earlier in the week — and the Twins sent Mark Contreras down as the corresponding move.

“I’d expect him to be pretty close to back to normal. Is he going to feel some soreness in his foot? Yeah, probably,” Baldelli said. “I don’t want to make analogies, but it’s probably not severe pain. If it was severe pain, he wouldn’t be playing, or able to run or do all the stuff he needs to do. I think he’s going to feel some soreness, but it’s definitely stuff he can play through.”

And Buxton, Baldelli said, was feeling better on Saturday than he was on Friday, when he was out of the lineup entirely and did not appear in the game. The all-star served as the team’s designated hitter on Saturday, doubling in his first at-bat.

The glut of injuries has opened up more playing time for guys like Nick Gordon, Jake Cave, Contreras and Gilberto Celestino, who himself was out earlier in the week on the paternity list after welcoming his first child.

Gordon, in particular, has made the most of the opportunity, entering Saturday’s game hitting a cool .500 in the month of August (8 for 16). His three hits, which included a three-run home run, helped propel the Twins to their 6-5 victory on Friday night.

“It’s been very rewarding for all of us, because he works hard and he’s a good player. He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person,” Baldelli said. “He doesn’t just want to be here. He wants to put in the work to be here and contribute here as a really good major-league player. Watching him go through that progression has been fantastic.”

BRIEFLY

Gio Urshela was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day. Baldelli said he twisted his ankle a couple days earlier. … The Twins honored hall of famers Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva in a pregame “Welcome Back from Cooperstown,” ceremony on Saturday.

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