Phil Hughes will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Friday, Twins manager Paul Molitor said after his team’s 10-3 loss to the Miami Marlins on Thursday “just to make sure” no serious damage was done to the righthander’s his left knee by the bullet of a baseball that crashed into his leg. It’s almost as if the Twins don’t believe he’s OK.
That’s because the collision appeared so harmful at the moment. When J.T. Realmuto’s screamer back up the middle bounced off Hughes’ knee, the pitcher crumpled to the ground in pain, grabbing his leg. He laid on the ground for several minutes before Twins athletic trainer Tony Leo helped Hughes to his feet, then gingerly supported him as he slowly limped off the field.
Yet X-rays found no damage other than a bruise, giving the Twins hope that the 29-year-old Hughes won’t be sidelined for too long.
“We’re optimistic, as far as no breakage,” Molitor said, though he cautioned that the Twins will make no decisions about his status until after Friday’s MRI.
It was Hughes’ first relief appearance of the season, and just his third in three seasons with the Twins, after he was demoted from the rotation following a series of subpar outings that ballooned the veteran’s ERA to 5.95. Thursday’s appearance wasn’t particularly sharp, either; Hughes allowed three consecutive singles in the eighth inning, the last a single from Marcell Ozuna that provided Miami’s 10th run.
“It was a time where he hadn’t pitched for a while, [so I wanted] to try to get him into a game,” Molitor said. “It made sense to get him some work. But he took a really hot shot.”
Hughes’ injury wasn’t the Twins’ only one, either. Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia fouled a pitch off his right foot in the sixth inning, and was removed for Max Kepler when the inning ended.
“He came off after the at-bat, [and] he couldn’t put any pressure on his foot,” Molitor said. “He hobbled out of here, but he took a good shot, too. He’s more day to day.”
Jepsen’s issue: control
Kevin Jepsen was informed “a couple of days ago” that he would be given a hiatus as closer, Molitor said, “so he knows where we’re at with that.”
Where they’re at is: Brandon Kintzler and perhaps Fernando Abad likely will handle the ninth inning for the foreseeable future, while Jepsen tries to correct the problems that have caused him to give up at least one hit in 16 consecutive appearances, dating to April 25, and runs in 12 of his 25 games overall.
Jepsen “is doing fine. He’s a very prideful guy who’s had consistency over his career, whether its been as a setup [role] or in his short term as closer here,” Molitor said. “The one thing in his past that has been a hiccup at times has been control. And [his recent slump] hasn’t been that as much as not having the ability to throw all three pitches, like he needs to do to be successful.”
Jepsen has fallen behind 49 of the 108 hitters he has faced this season.
Morneau to White Sox
Joe Mauer “had a good talk a week ago” with Justin Morneau, and they discussed the former Twins first baseman’s timetable for a return from offseason elbow surgery.
“There were a couple of teams interested in him,” Mauer said, “but I know he wanted to be pretty close to healthy” before putting his name on a contract.
That’s why Thursday’s news, that Morneau had agreed to an incentive-laden $1 million deal with the White Sox, was welcomed by Mauer.
“I know he’s still getting healthy, so with him signing, it’s a real positive sign that he’s starting to feel pretty good,” Mauer said.
Not a bad venue for Morneau, either; the 2006 AL MVP has hit 15 home runs at U.S. Cellular Field, his career-high for non-Minnesota ballparks. “A lot of guys love hitting in that park,” Mauer said.
Morneau was immediately placed on the disabled list as he continues to recover. To make room for him, Chicago designated Mat Latos for assignment. The veteran righthander started the season 5-0, including two victories over the Twins, but had a 7.26 ERA over his past six starts.