First baseman C.J. Cron was back in the lineup Thursday, but the Twins weren’t a step closer to returning to full strength.
And then they took a further step back during the game.
Shortstop Jorge Polanco did not start after undergoing emergency dental surgery on Thursday. Ehire Adrianza started at short while Luis Arraez batted in Polanco’s customary No. 2 hole in the batting order.
But Adrianza lasted only two innings, as he strained his oblique on his first swing. He ended up dropping down a sacrifice and then being replaced in the field by Ronald Torreyes, who made his Twins debut.
Polanco also has been nursing a sore finger and has played in more games, 138, than any other Twins player. So, despite the team being in a critical stretch of games, Polanco and his .299 average, 21 homers and 74 RBI were on the bench Thursday.
“He lost something off of one of his teeth last night during the game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said, “and it was something that he had to make sure that he got done before. … He wasn’t just going to go another week or two or three without getting a particular procedure done.”
Polanco ended up entering in the eighth inning, pinch hitting against former teammate Fernando Rodney with the bases loaded as the potential tying run. Polanco struck out.
Meanwhile, Baldelli expressed some hope the Twins were on the verge of getting some of their banged up players back in the lineup in the coming days. That includes Miguel Sano (sore back), Marwin Gonzalez (abdominal/oblique strain), Max Kepler (sore left shoulder) and Jake Cave (mild left groin strain).
Sano was scheduled to take 50 swings Thursday and was available in an emergency.
Cave ran indoors and hit in the cage. He is confident that he’s close to returning.
Kepler is feeling better, Baldelli said, and took some swings in the batting cage as well.
Gonzalez’s injury is the one that could take some more time to heal.
Asked if he thought he could have all his key players in the lineup sometime during the series at Cleveland, Baldelli said: “It’s possible. Really, we have been playing this day-to-day for a while now, and that’s what we are going to continue to do. We’re getting closer and closer. Internally, we know that. We don’t always go into specifics of what that means for each guy, but our guys are feeling better. Each day, they are doing more and more. I’m not sure when we are going to have the entire group back out there playing at the same time. Hopefully, it’s a matter of days.”
Thrown right in
Righthander Brusdar Graterol pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning Wednesday, striking out Anthony Rendon for the final out. Of the four outings he has made since being called up, it was the most comfortable he has looked. He fired seven fastballs of at least 99 miles per hour, topping out at 99.7 mph.
The Twins currently have 15 relievers in the bullpen, and everyone is being evaluated. But Graterol offers firepower that every team covets, and the Twins are going to see how he handles different scenarios.
“He could find his way into high-leverage spots,” Baldelli said. “He could find his way in there going up and down and going an inning and a third or two innings, potentially. I think he can handle that and do it just fine.”
• Righthander Kyle Gibson is the Twins’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the Major League Baseball player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Gibson and his wife, Elizabeth, have been working with relief organizations since 2011, including work to rescue trafficked children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Former Twins players Liam Hendriks (Oakland) and Eduardo Escobar (Arizona) also were nominated.
• The Twins have sold out all of their full postseason ticket strips. Partial ticket strips remain available; strips for the Division Series go on sale at noon next Thursday.