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Injury Concerns Are (Sigh) Already Mounting for the Twins


We're approaching the 10-day countdown to the season opener and things are not trending well in a variety of critical areas.

Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Let's start with the good news: Byron Buxton seems to be healthy and on track for the start of the season. Even though he has yet to play in a major-league spring training game, the club's conservative approach to ramping him up seems like it's going according to plan. 

He's getting enough action on the side fields and in minor-league games to sharpen his skills and find his timing, while the Twins are mostly keeping his workload light until the meaningful action begins. 

So that's good. Elsewhere, the recent news has been less encouraging.

We'll start with Jorge Polanco, who's been handled in a similar fashion to Buxton this spring despite much vaguer circumstances. 

We know Buxton was bothered by a knee issue throughout the 2022 season, and underwent surgery to address it in the offseason. Even beyond that, it makes sense to limit exposure for a player who so frequently gets hurt while on the field, and who doesn't seem to need much traditional preparation to find his groove. 

Polanco, on the other hand, is a much more perplexing situation. We know he suffered a knee injury last August and that it was deemed relatively minor at the time. He repeatedly tried to return to the field but couldn't make it back before the end of the campaign. Polanco reportedly spent much of his offseason rehabbing the knee, but there's never been a sense this spring that he was physically right. Unfortunately, that's now been confirmed.

On Sunday, Derek Falvey finally acknowledged to reporters that Polanco is doubtful for Opening Day

"He hasn’t been able to do all the leg activities and all the legwork and all the running and all the strength and conditioning stuff that everybody would at this stage, so some of it’s just responding to where he is from a timing standpoint," Falvey said. "Obviously, the calendar plays a role now as we get closer and closer to Opening Day."

While it's entirely possible the Twins were trying to do the right thing all along here – they might have genuinely thought Polanco was in a decent place at the start of camp, and that a slow ramp-up would get him to where he needed to be – and it simply hasn't played out as hoped. 

But with the way things went last year, this is definitely a foreboding development that will make it difficult for fans to trust what they're hearing from the team when it comes to updating on their myriad health concerns.

Polanco is among three of the four projected starting infielders for the Twins this year who've yet to play an official spring inning at their position. José Miranda has been limited by shoulder soreness which has prevented him from getting much-needed reps at third base, although he does seem (hopefully) close to turning a corner. Meanwhile Alex Kirilloff's status remains in doubt as he works back from a second wrist surgery.

Just days earlier, Falvey had characterized Kirilloff as – between Buxton, Polanco, and himself – "probably the one that’s a little bit behind our schedule." Now he's flip-flopped the latter two. From the current view, it's difficult to read this as anything other than: we should not expect AK or Polo to be ready for the start of the season.

On the bright side, Kirilloff did seem to take an important step forward this past week. In a minor-league game on Saturday, he played four innings defensively at first base, and went 0-for-2 at the plate. Getting action in a real game, even on the minors side, is a key milestone for the 25-year-old and theoretically gives him at least a shot at being ready for Opening Day. I wouldn't bet on it though.

Ironically, Kirilloff was involved with another injury scare on Sunday. While facing Jhoan Durán, he smashed a line drive back up the middle that hit the top reliever in the leg. Ted Schwerzler, observing the action in Fort Myers, tweeted that Durán was "walking gingerly" before departing the field on his own power and riding a golf cart back to the complex.

Hopefully nothing to worry about. These things happen, and typically don't amount to much more than a bruise. (That thankfully appears to be the case here.) But for Kirilloff, of all people, to accidentally peg Durán, whose ability to stay healthy for all of 2022 was one of the season's most pleasant surprises, is a cosmic twist of cruel irony. 

Speaking of which, the injury news didn't stop there on Sunday (bloody Sunday). Max Kepler exited the Twins' exhibition game against Atlanta with "left hip tightness." If that sounds familiar, the outfielder also dealt with hip issues during an injury-riddled conclusion to last year. 

Very possibly this is all much ado about nothing (or little). Opening Day is still a week-and-a-half away, and it would be drastic to assume the worst with any of these developing scenarios, let alone more unsubstantiated anxieties like Tyler Mahle's velocity or Kenta Maeda's spring results.

At the same time, can Twins fans be blamed for doing just that? More good news would be eagerly welcomed.


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Definitely concerned about Polanco's knee. It sure appears he's going to be IL when the season starts. It's not trending in the right direction. We have the depth to cover it, but it would be great to have Polo in there. 

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Yikes! Remind me not to turn to you to brighten my Sundays. Seriously, I appreciate all the information. Buxton and Kirilloff (sounds like he is hitting the ball hard!) seem to be on schedule or very close to it. Duran's had better be a bruise. Kepler - if goes to the IL, because they just sent Wallner down, do the Twins have to use up one of Wallner's options to bring him back up before the season?

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Pretty downbeat, but this is reality. Part of what has bugged me about Twins’ injuries of the last couple of years is that seemingly minor injuries linger. If Polanco and Kirilloff are healthy and playing for the Twins next month, it really isn’t that big of a deal. If an April return becomes May or June or the All-Star break, I’m saying “here we go again”. Time will tell. 

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Oh boy.  I hope you are wrong regarding the injuries but after last year who knows?  What has bothered me as much as the injuries is the teams lack of transparency regarding injured players.  Why does a day to day injury wind up a month long or more trips on the il and management tells fans very little.  What's wrong with being honest with the fans and give factual injury updates?  So many things this FOhas done and said over the past few years shows me they have little regard for the fans at all.  Same old same old.

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I have no freakin' clue why the Twins aren't putting screens in front of the mound in intrasquad scrimmages.

EDIT: let me rephrase that: Shouldn't the Twins be using screens in front of the mound in back field stuff?

It would be nice to know more about Polanco's vesting option for 2024. 

If Polanco does not reach 550 PA and therefore becomes a free agent after this season, then I actually think it's in Polanco's best interest, and also the team's best interest, to let Polanco take it slow with his knee. Let him get healthy and play really well for the last 4 or 5 months down the stretch as he heads for free agency. The fans win, too. Granted, the Twins do desperately need Polanco's bat early in the season.

Edited by Hosken Bombo Disco
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9 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

Oh boy.  I hope you are wrong regarding the injuries but after last year who knows?  What has bothered me as much as the injuries is the teams lack of transparency regarding injured players.  Why does a day to day injury wind up a month long or more trips on the il and management tells fans very little.  What's wrong with being honest with the fans and give factual injury updates?  So many things this FOhas done and said over the past few years shows me they have little regard for the fans at all.  Same old same old.

They owe fans nothing about injuries. What would change at all if you knew more right now? 

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10 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

If Polanco does not reach 550 PA and therefore becomes a free agent after this season,

I believe the plate appearances lock in the contract for next year but not hitting it means it becomes the Twins option whether or not to decline the option year. Makes it all the more concerning if I have that right, with Polanco normally playing through pain, that he is now unable to take the field.

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Community Leader
16 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

I have no freakin' clue why the Twins aren't putting screens in front of the mound in intrasquad scrimmages.

EDIT: let me rephrase that: Shouldn't the Twins be using screens in front of the mound in back field stuff?

It would be nice to know more about Polanco's vesting option for 2024. 

If Polanco does not reach 550 PA and therefore becomes a free agent after this season, then I actually think it's in Polanco's best interest, and also the team's best interest, to let Polanco take it slow with his knee. Let him get healthy and play really well for the last 4 or 5 months down the stretch as he heads for free agency. The fans win, too. Granted, the Twins do desperately need Polanco's bat early in the season.

I don't know for sure their reasoning, but I can tell you that throwing with a screen in front of you is not comfortable. If you're out there really trying to work on things and make them as close to game like as you can on the back fields the pitcher likely wouldn't want the screen. My guess is they don't use one because they want the pitcher thinking about nothing but executing their pitches in game like fashion. But I can't tell you for sure that's the reason they don't use one.

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Nothing unexpected about all of this.  Re Polanco, for the time being just start Julien - he’s got way more upside anyway.  I’m fairly tired of hearing about his defense.

Let’s face it - this Twins team is going to need to score more runs than most of us TDers think if they are going to compete. Also, do the FO and the coaching staff have the courage to break camp with Ober in the rotation?  Mahle or Maeda just may be our sixth starter.

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20 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

I have no freakin' clue why the Twins aren't putting screens in front of the mound in intrasquad scrimmages.

EDIT: let me rephrase that: Shouldn't the Twins be using screens in front of the mound in back field stuff?

It would be nice to know more about Polanco's vesting option for 2024. 

If Polanco does not reach 550 PA and therefore becomes a free agent after this season, then I actually think it's in Polanco's best interest, and also the team's best interest, to let Polanco take it slow with his knee. Let him get healthy and play really well for the last 4 or 5 months down the stretch as he heads for free agency. The fans win, too. Granted, the Twins do desperately need Polanco's bat early in the season.

I did not find any detailed accounts of the option, but this could be a club option that automatically vests with 550 PAs.  According to this article the team controls the 2024-25 options.

Polanco Option

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Polo is one of the Twins best players when healthy. It is always concerning when a player goes through a long, non surgical rehab and when he tries to ramp it up has a setback. We don't know how this will turn out, many possible outcomes like Julien taking over second and winning the rookie of the year award!!!!!! Sign me up!!! 

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1 hour ago, Major League Ready said:

I did not find any detailed accounts of the option, but this could be a club option that automatically vests with 550 PAs.  According to this article the team controls the 2024-25 options.

Polanco Option

According to Spotrac, the 2024 vesting option includes a $1M buyout.  So a team option with a buyout if he doesn't reach 550 plate appearance.

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Well, another thing going on is that the team isn't playing very well in practice games right now. Consecutive starts by Ryan, Mahle and Maeda haven't been very good and no one is hitting much.

With several of the projected big offensive guns not playing at all in games and one (Miranda) not playing in the field, one starts to look around for someone to be excited about and well...Lee and Julien just were sent down. 

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4 hours ago, FlyingFinn said:

 Kepler - if goes to the IL, because they just sent Wallner down, do the Twins have to use up one of Wallner's options to bring him back up before the season?

There is a rule that if a player gets optioned but is called up within 10 days (?), then it doesn't count as an option. So, in theory, the Twins could call Wallner back up to start the season. 

Several years ago, the Twins optioned Alex Burnett to the minor leagues pretty early in camp, but when there was an injury late in spring training, Burnett was on the opening day roster. 

As for Wallner, the option really shouldn't matter too much as he's got three years of options and if they need all three at this point, it probably isn't good. At the same time, they have the players to fill the roster even without Wallner, but he should get plenty of mLB time throughout the season. 

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3 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

Oh boy.  I hope you are wrong regarding the injuries but after last year who knows?  What has bothered me as much as the injuries is the teams lack of transparency regarding injured players.  Why does a day to day injury wind up a month long or more trips on the il and management tells fans very little.  What's wrong with being honest with the fans and give factual injury updates?  So many things this FOhas done and said over the past few years shows me they have little regard for the fans at all.  Same old same old.

Just to be fair... we don't know how transparent they have or haven't been. I had people in FM telling me 2-3 weeks ago that said he was looking pretty good, running, hitting, fielding... 

And now Ted posted on Friday or Saturday that he was limping. It's possible that he just had a setback. It's also possible that local media hadn't met with Falvey since. It's not like there is much Twins media in Ft. Myers this spring. It doesn't have to always be something sinister. 

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Verified Member
35 minutes ago, stringer bell said:

Well, another thing going on is that the team isn't playing very well in practice games right now. Consecutive starts by Ryan, Mahle and Maeda haven't been very good and no one is hitting much.

With several of the projected big offensive guns not playing at all in games and one (Miranda) not playing in the field, one starts to look around for someone to be excited about and well...Lee and Julien just were sent down. 

No need to worry. All of the eternal optimists here believe the roster will be just fine come opening day. On the other hand there's some of us who believe this team won't amount to much due to the way it is built around injury riddle players who can't even make it through spring training playing part-time, poor offense and a Manager who thinks he can win games by looking at a piece of paper. If the pitching doesn't hold the opposing teams to 3 runs or less this team won't come close to finishing .500.

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3 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

I did not find any detailed accounts of the option, but this could be a club option that automatically vests with 550 PAs.  According to this article the team controls the 2024-25 options.

Polanco Option

That's what I think, too. However, if Polanco has a mutual player option, or some other obscure rule comes into play, then Polanco could be gone.

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