Phil Hughes’ season may have ended with a line drive to his left knee Thursday night.
The Twins’ righthander, on crutches since J.T. Realmuto’s line drive bounced off his knee, suffered a compaction fracture in the bone, an injury that will take 6-8 weeks to heal, and probably several weeks more to build up arm strength again, manager Paul Molitor said Saturday. A magnetic resonance imaging scan on Friday revealed the break in the bone, adding yet another setback to one of the worst seasons of the 30-year-old reliever’s career.
“It’s been a rough year for Phil. Now he has to deal with a lengthy absence from pitching,” Molitor said of last season’s Opening Day starter. “[If you’re] talking best-case scenario, mid-August. It’s going to limit what he’s able to do the remainder of the season.”
It’s possible that Hughes could return in September, just as Ricky Nolasco did last season, in order to prove he had regained his health. But the Twins will proceed now without one of their highest paid and most experienced players for what might be the remaining 102 games of the season.
Of course, they haven’t much had the Hughes of 2014, when he finished seventh in Cy Young voting, this season anyway. Hughes suffered a nightmarish May, posting a 7.43 ERA in five starts, and lost his spot in the Twins’ rotation. He was injured in his first appearance as a reliever, and was helped off the field after cramping to the ground in pain.
Hughes isn’t the only casualty, either. Closer Glen Perkins, who has pitched only two innings this season, cut off his bullpen session Friday night after just 20 pitches, after experiencing renewed discomfort in his pitching shoulder. “He feels fine on flat ground. There’s something about getting out there on the incline that changes what it feels like to throw a baseball,” Molitor said. “So we’ll try to figure out why that occurs.”
Perkins will consult another specialist to receive a second opinion, though details of that haven’t been worked out yet, Molitor said. There is no timetable for Perkins’ return.
Amid all that negative injury news, Kyle Gibson returns today from his own physical setback. The righthander hasn’t pitched since April 22 after suffering a shoulder strain and back spasms, but he’s eager to return to the mound today in Game 2 against the Red Sox. Gibson has had a rough start to the season, too — he’s 0-3 with a 6.10 ERA — but Molitor is hopeful that he regards this as a chance to start over.
Injuries “give you an opportunity to look back and see what your mindset is. I’m hoping to see a more aggressive Kyle Gibson, just trusting his pitches in the zone, and not as much having to make the perfect pitch all the time,” Molitor said. “He’s a thinker out there, and you have to be present mentally when you’re pitching, but sometimes you just have to let it fly, too, and trust you can get the job done.”
Robbie Grossman has been getting the job done, and today he bats third for the first time in his career. A big crowd is expected at Target Field on Brian Dozier jersey day. Here are the lineups for today’s game: