MINNEAPOLIS — At this point the Minnesota Twins won’t get back to full strength in their infield. But with 4 out of 5 projected regulars currently unavailable, we ask ourselves a simple question:
How long before they get close to the full deck?
Nobody in the clubhouse will make excuses for their play through 7 weeks, but this one is hard to get around. One reason, in my mind, that a Twins team with postseason aspirations has played sub-.500 baseball is because the club is playing without 80% of its starting infield.
Every team deals with injuries. Some teams get hit harder than others. The Twins have some competent fill-ins. I just think that Minnesota has had to go to the well an awful lot early in the season — and we’re not even counting the fact that their most reliable starting pitcher from a year ago, Erin Santana, has yet to start a game for the team. (Santana’s scheduled rehab start Monday was rained out and he’s now on track to start his rehab Wednesday with Double-A Chattanooga.)
It should be noted that Eduardo Escobar has been great filling in for Miguel Sano at third base. But if he didn’t have to do that he could be filling in at shortstop, so the lack of depth has taken its bite out of the overall lineup. And Logan Morrison is a good hitter and competent at first base–but he’s not Joe Mauer defensively. And his spot duties at first base leave the Twins a little more exposed at DH.
The point is that the Twins would be better off if they didn’t have to count on 4 different backups to cover the infield. So when will their projected regulars be back in the lineup?
All we can do at this point is guess about return dates. Here’s a shot in the dark:
Joe Mauer – Mauer’s concussion-like symptoms kept him away from the ballpark over the weekend as he recovered elsewhere. Twins manager Paul Molitor said that Mauer was at the park Monday, checking in with the training staff. As for a medical update, Molitor would only say that he was “pleased to hear that he was doing a little better than he was yesterday.”
When will he return?
I think Mauer is the toughest to peg a return date. If it’s truly lingering symptoms from a concussion, we’ve just been exposed for a long time to bad news around here, from Justin Morneau to Corey Koskie. He’s eligible to return from the 10-day DL on May 29, a road game in Kansas City. I’m just not willing to venture a guess on this one. Could be worth noting that the Majors has a 7-day concussion DL, if the Twins felt Mauer’s symptoms were definitely related to a brain injury and he would be ready to jump back in after a week.
Brian Dozier – The Twins’ iron man, he’s the only starting infielder still taking the post every day. He hasn’t hit up to his lofty standards, but you always have to expect that one of his patented hot streaks and homer binges is right around the corner.
Jorge Polanco – Polanco was suspended 80 games during spring training for testing positive for PED’s. Honestly, it still surprises me, but that’s the hand the Twins were dealt.
When will he return?
My guess right now is Friday, July 6. That’s a home game vs. the Orioles. It would be the Twins’ 81st game of the season, assuming no more weather cancellations. That’s an 11-game Twins homestand before the all-star break, so even if there are some games postponed, it figures that Polanco will return on that extended homestand.
Fair question at this point: What would the Twins do if Eduardo Escobar keeps hitting like this and Miguel Sano is healthy and productive at third base?
Miguel Sano – Currently on the DL with a strained hamstring, Sano has already missed significant time this season. He’s on a minor league rehab stint, and the Twins haven’t made any final decision on when he could be back in the lineup. He’s eligible to return right now, and Minnesota could no doubt use his help. He ran the bases during extra pregame work Monday and he’s scheduled to DH a full game and then play a full game at third base for Triple-A Rochester.
“The news on the leg has been good,” Molitor said. “Haven’t made any decisions about a return. We’re going to take the information as it comes in the next couple of days.”
Sano struck out in 40% of his plate appearances when healthy. But the Twins also had no problem injecting gold glover Byron Buxton into the lineup before he got his timing back.
When will he be back?
Like Mauer’s injury, I’m not really comfortable guessing at this point. If pinned down, I’d just shrug and guess this Friday, May 25, in Seattle. Then again, at the time Sano first was held out of the lineup I guess that it would be a day or two before he returned. So clearly I’m not the world’s leading hamstring expert.
Jason Castro – Out for the season. I think the crowd has collectively underestimated what a loss Castro will be to this team. He didn’t hit much this year, and frankly has never been a huge threat offensively in a Twins uniform. But his value largely goes unseen and is hard to measure.
When will he return?
I think he’ll be ready for Opening Day, 2019. At that point, the whole infield could look different. Escobar, Dozier and Mauer are impending free agents.