Injuries can play a significant role in a team’s eventual finish to the season, as clubs that have their key players are more likely to stay in contention. Expectations were high for two of the three players below to help the Twins in 2022, and one possibly being a late-season addition to the team’s plans. All three are expected to return before the season ends for a team fighting to stay in first place.
Bailey Ober, SP
Injury: Right Groin Strain
Expected Return: Early July
Bailey Ober was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher in the second half of 2021, so hopes remained high for him entering his sophomore season. In seven starts (33 2/3 innings), he posted a 4.01 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and a 29-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio. Before going on the IL, he allowed eight earned runs in his last two starts, so his numbers may have been impacted by him trying to play through the injury. When healthy, Ober has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers, and his return will be a welcome addition to an improving rotation.
It will be interesting to see what the Twins decide to do with the starting rotation. Currently, the Twins have five pitchers already occupying rotation spots, so the team will have a few options. Bringing Ober back might push the team to move to a six-man rotation. Candidates to remove from the rotation include Devin Smeltzer and Dylan Bundy. Smeltzer has been pitching well, but he has minor league options remaining. Bundy would have to be moved to the bullpen or designated for assignment. It seems likely for the team to switch to a six-man rotation because another injury will likely occur to a starter.
Jorge Alcala, RP
Injury: Right Elbow Inflammation
Expected Return: July
Minnesota’s bullpen has been a question mark for most of the season, with few pitchers having any level of trust. Alcala was projected to be one of the team’s high leverage relievers, but he has been limited to two appearances this season. Elbow issues can be problematic and linger, especially for high-velocity pitchers. There’s little doubt the Twins bullpen would take on a remarkably different view if Alcala was healthy and pitching late in games.
At the beginning of June, Alcala appeared in a rehab assignment with Fort Myers, where he was hitting 96-97 mph on the radar gun. Unfortunately, his throwing progression was temporarily halted due to stiffness in his right elbow. Minnesota had Alcala continue to work on strengthening exercises, and he is expected to resume throwing this week.
Kenta Maeda, SP/RP
Injury: Modified Tommy John Surgery
Expected Return: Possibly September
Kenta Maeda has a chance to turn into Minnesota’s not-so-secret playoff reliever, especially based on his track record with the Dodgers. Luckily, Maeda had an internal brace put in the elbow to cut his recovery time down by a couple of months. His procedure took place on September 1, 2021, and the recovery time is 9-12 months. At the beginning of June, he shifted his recovery from the team’s Fort Myers facilities to Minneapolis so he could be closer to the team.
Maeda has been throwing from flat ground at 120 feet and is scheduled to throw off the mound near the beginning of July. There is obviously no guarantee that Maeda will be back on the team’s roster this season. If the team wants him to start games, he will need a more lengthy rehab assignment to build up his workload. His best option to help the 2022 Twins may be to come out of the bullpen if the team’s doctors feel he is up to the task.
How much do you think these three pitchers will help the Twins in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.