Max Kepler has returned to action, and the Twins couldn’t be happier.
Kepler, part of the same group of international players the Twins signed in 2009 with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco, battled an elbow strain that kept him out of action longer than anyone anticipated. But the German is finally healthy and went 0-for-3 with a run scored Thursday in his debut for Class A Cedar Rapids.
“Happy to get him back,” said Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor leagues. “It was a tough thing for him because he was hurt for the first time in his life as an athlete. It was frustrating for him.”
Inflammation kept returning when Kepler tried to ramp up his activities, and he had to be patient and wait for it to go away.
It kept him from starting the season at Cedar Rapids, where he would have paired up with center fielder Byron Buxton right away.
Kepler, 20, was rated the eighth-best prospect in the organization, according to Baseball America. He has filled out to 6-4 and 207 pounds. He runs well and can play the outfield, but also is a good fielder at first base. Kepler was an Appalachian League All-Star last season at Elizabethton, batting .297 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in 59 games.
Buxton still a Kernel
Buxton entered Friday batting .339 with eight homers, 52 RBI and 29 stolen bases. He had hit .356 over his previous 10 games. Yet no promotion.
The hype surrounding Buxton is enormous, and the Twins set themselves up for scrutiny when they agreed to have a recent Cedar Rapids game televised. Buxton showed off all his skills, including a couple of remarkable catches in center field, leading to even more interest.
“We’re going to move him [up] when we think he’s ready to go,” Steil said. “I understand when fans see the numbers and everyone wants to see him moved up to Minnesota as quick as he can. [But] we’re focused on developing skills.”
• Righthander Vance Worley gave up one run over 7⅓ innings Monday, his best outing since being sent down to Class AAA Rochester. The Twins’ Opening Day starter is 2-3 with a 3.98 ERA with the Red Wings and needs to put together more outings like the last one. “His last outing he was down a little better,” Steil said. “He has to consistently pitch down in the zone. When he leaves the ball up, he’s going to get hurt.”
• Righthander C.K. Irby, the Twins’ 10th-round pick out of Samford, is on the disabled list at Elizabethton because of shoulder weakness. He will miss about two weeks.