CLEVELAND – The Twins entered Saturday’s game with a short bench after Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario were late scratches from the starting lineup.
And it left the Twins with a corner outfield tandem of Robbie Grossman and Mr. Everywhere, Chris Gimenez.
Kepler fouled a ball off his right foot in the sixth inning Friday and needed a few moments to recover. He struck out in the at-bat but completed the game, going 1-for-4 with a run scored.
But Kepler could not put much weight on the foot Saturday when he tried to get in some early running. So he was taken out of the lineup and sent for X-xays, which were negative, and the Twins announced that Kepler was available off the bench.
“He’s having a fairly difficult time being able to jog, much less run,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Kepler.
Rosario was in the original lineup at center field before becoming ill, with Byron Buxton getting the day off. But Buxton started in center instead.
Kepler, batting .253 with eight home runs and 29 RBI, was tied with Buxton and Brian Dozier for the most games played with 67.
Meantime, Molitor knew he had a developing situation with Rosario, who has been playing recently despite feeling under the weather. Rosario reported to Progressive Field in worse shape but was willing to try to play. The Twins eventually decided to pull Rosario from the lineup.
That left them with a dilemma. Grossman could play right field for Kepler, but who would play for Rosario in left? Molitor went with Gimenez, who has played first and third base and has appeared as a pitcher in six games this season.
So the Twins entered a game with the first-place Indians without two of their fleet, strong-armed outfielders.
In the eighth inning, Molitor put Rosario in left field as a defensive replacement and moved Gimenez to first.
Sano still ailing
Miguel Sano was not in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game because he also has been slowed by an illness. But he said he felt better on Saturday and hoped to play Sunday.
Molitor said Sano was available to pinch hit on Friday, so he likely was available Saturday, too.
“I think he feels a little better this morning, which is encouraging,” Molitor said. “I’m not going to push that one too hard. We will try to get him as healthy as we can.”
Trevor Hildenberger on Friday followed in the tradition of rookie pitchers receiving the ball from their first major league strikeout. The ball is taken out of play once the strikeout occurs, is authenticated following the game and then presented to the pitcher.
Under one condition: The rookie has to deliver a speech. It catches all of them off guard and leads to some entertaining moments. Hildenberger, by accounts, handled it well.
“Thanks for the opportunity,” Hildenberger said to the club. “I’m excited to be here. Thanks for playing defense.”
Players are still laughing about Alan Busenitz’s speech on June 17 after he notched his first career strikeout. He was so nervous he stammered through it.
“His hands were shaking,” Buxton said while laughing.
Righthander John Curtiss was promoted to Class AAA Rochester after dominating Southern League hitters for Class AA Chattanooga. Curtiss, a reliever, threw 22 scoreless innings at Chattanooga and left there with a 0.72 ERA. He was a sixth-round pick in 2014 out of the University of Texas. He went 2⅓ innings on Friday in his Rochester debut, striking out three.