The flexor mass is a collection of muscles and tendons that come together in the forearm near the elbow. A flexor mass strain, the injury that Trevor Hildenberger is dealing with, is common among pitchers because of the stress placed on that area when a pitcher grips the baseball before throwing it.
Hildenberger had a 1.93 ERA as a high-leverage reliever in 13 games during the first month of the season. He owned a 21.21 ERA in six May games before being sent down to Triple-A, and pitched in nine games for Rochester before being shut down in early June.
He began a rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League on Saturday. If it goes well, and he returns to the form at the beginning of the season, he could provide bullpen depth for a Minnesota Twins team that could definitely use it.
“We’re probably going to try and take a wait and see approach,” said Rocco Baldelli. “See how he’s feeling physically and continuing to progress, and then also watch him throw the ball.”
He had a similar response when asked about other key players like Byron Buxton, Nelson Cruz, Sam Dyson and Michael Pineda. Baldelli doesn’t want to commit to a timeline with them. He doesn’t want them to experience undue pressure. It’s a lot of wait and see.
And while Minnesota’s recent four-game losing streak — including the first two games of a Cleveland Indians series that has resulted in a loss of their one-time 11.5-game lead in the AL Central — has a lot to do with how their starters have pitched against the Tribe and the Atlanta Braves, injuries are playing a factor as well.
The Twins are 57-25 with Buxton, who injured his left shoulder in Miami, and 13-21 without him. Cruz had two three-homer games shortly before going on the 10-day IL with a wrist strain. Dyson was considered the best reliever traded at the deadline by FanGraphs, but struggled in his first two outings and is on the IL with right biceps tendonitis. Pineda had a 2.23 ERA in his last six starts before injuring his triceps.
Cruz, Dyson and Pineda are all expected to travel with the team to Milwaukee and Texas. Buxton is not.
The more curious wrinkle to all this are players like Hildenberger, Willians Astudillo and Stephen Gonsalves. Astudillo is on the 10-day IL, but Hildenberger and Gonsalves will be monitored during their rehab stints in the GCL.
While Hildenberger was considered an integral part of the bullpen to start the year, Gonsalves was supposed to be on the “Road to 95,” as in pitching coach Wes Johnson was going to use his biomechanic wizardry to get the lefty pitching 95 mph.
Astudillo, of course, has become a cult figure for the Twins because of his stout stature and willingness to swing at everything he sees. If Mitch Garver or Jason Castro, who have been a solid catching duo all year long, were to join the ever-growing list of injured Twins, La Tortuga’s absence will become more prominent.
All teams deal with injuries, just ask Cleveland about missing Corey Kluber for most of the year. But while starting pitching is a major culprit, the loss of key players — especially pitchers, who are particularly injury-prone by nature — is affecting the Twins right now.