Eddie Rosario was back in the lineup on Friday, after being held out with a sore right shoulder on Thursday. But Eduardo Escobar, who, along with Rosario, has carried the Minnesota Twins offense this season, was injured on Thursday and remains sore.
“I think probably a tad better than I expected,” said manager Paul Molitor. “He’s sore and there’s some limitation because there’s still a lot of swelling there that impedes his ability probably to throw accurately as well as take his normal swing.”
Molitor said he could be used in an emergency situation, but likely won’t play until Saturday.
“He’s gonna try to do a little bit of work today just to get a feel … of his availability,” he added. “But I’m fairly optimistic that … he might be able to start the game tomorrow.”
Joe Mauer led off on Friday, and provides stability at the top of the order. But with Brian Dozier and Robbie Grossman scuffling, Escobar and Rosario have had to do yeoman’s work to keep the Twins offense chugging. Ehire Adrianza, a utility player known more for his defense, is hitting .278/.339/.519 in June and slotted behind Dozier (3) and Grossman (4) on Friday.
Molitor has shuffled his lineup repeatedly, trying to find an offensive spark. But many of his best players, or at least Minnesota’s projected starters this season, are injured, coming off a suspension or, in Miguel Sano’s case, trying to get his career back on track in High-A Fort Myers.
Polanco is in the middle of what is essentially a rehab stint as his 80-game PED suspension winds down. He’s due to return on July 2, but he has a cut on his throwing hand, which could delay things.
“We’re just trying to make sure we get that finger right before he’s done too much,” said Molitor. “The good news is today, kind of a two-front scenario: Ervin [Santana] threw to hitters today and Polanco was one of them.”
Santana was projected to be the Twins’ ace this season, but has a knuckle injury that has kept him off the mound so far this season. Molitor says things are finally improving for him, however.
“Thirty-five pitches were good,” he said. “Threw all his pitches. Talked to him earlier today and he said it was one of the better days he’s had in awhile, so I was encouraged by that.”
Polanco will face him again early next week.
“Polanco was able to swing relatively pain-free,” said Molitor. “I think there was couple of times when he has to reach for pitches he get a little irritation on that finger. We’re gonna try to bring him along, at the very least.
“He’ll face Ervin again on Monday and we’ll try to get him out at least to start DHing in some games before he’s ready to play defensively. Hopefully sooner than later.”
The Twins will likely send Santana to Fort Myers if he continues to improve, where he will pitch three innings.
Buxton remains at Triple-A Rochester, where he is rehabilitating from a fractured left toe that hindered his production at the plate. Molitor says he’s not feeling as much pain in it, however, and that he’s making progress despite going 2-for-10 with five strikeouts in 12 plate appearances so far.
“There have been some strikeouts there and those types of things,” said Molitor. “When you make adjustments and try to bring them into a game, it’s going to be a little bit of trusting it and feeling it. Pitches look a little different. All those types of things.
“I think he realizes the changes are things he has to do to have a better chance. And the fact he’s feeling well enough physically to go ahead and try to execute that swing is good. His baserunning is aggressive. It’s better than we saw the first time he tried to come back up here with the injury. So there are some positives, for sure.”
The Twins lineup needs to provide some production in the meantime, however, if they want to hang around .500 and give themselves a chance to compete with the Cleveland Indians for the Central in the second half.
Rosario’s presence in the lineup is a major part of that.
“It’s one of those things where we’re going to try to stay ahead of those things as best as we can,” said Molitor regarding Rosario’s shoulder. “Just maybe some small program to keep that shoulder as strong as we can. It’s just wear and tear.
“You know how position players go through some arm fatigue or shoulder soreness throughout the year. If it starts to affect your swing, that’s when it becomes a problem. But he was anxious to get back in there and was more than happy to be in there.”
The Twins share that sentiment, undoubtedly, as well.