The rally set up perfectly for the Twins: Three runs down in the seventh inning, two runners on base, and their veteran slugger due up. But Nelson Cruz knew he was in too much pain to help.
Cruz’s left wrist has bothered him occasionally all season, and cameras have caught him wincing after a swing. But the nagging soreness turned to pain when he swung his bat an inning earlier Sunday. Cruz called time, walked to the on-deck circle until the pain subsided somewhat, and eventually grounded out. But he told manager Rocco Baldelli he was hurt, and Baldelli sent up a pinch hitter in the seventh.
“It’s something I’ve been dealing with,” said Cruz, who has occasionally had his hand wrapped after Twins games. “Today was more painful.”
Cruz will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday to determine the cause of the pain and the process for healing it. It’s too early, Baldelli said, to know whether the 38-year-old designated hitter can avoid a stay on the 10-day injured list.
“These are the things you just want to be careful of,” Baldelli said. “He’s a guy [who] knows his body very very well, so [we’ll talk] about past history and the things that he’s dealt with. But I think it’s something we’ll be able to work through.”
Should Cruz be sidelined for a couple of weeks, one option might be to cut short Miguel Sano’s rehab assignment at Class AAA Rochester, where Sano doubled twice, struck out twice and walked Sunday. Sano has had 39 plate appearances since returning from a laceration on his right foot, though only nine have come at the Class AAA level.
All nine spots
Willians Astudillo had one more workout to conduct before returning to action Sunday. It was with his mother.
After the Twins invited Ana Mercedes Astudillo to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Mother’s Day game, her son helped her prepare. “We practiced in the parking lot of my apartment,” Astudillo said with a grin.
The utility man was activated from the injured list after missing two weeks because of a strained hamstring, and he quickly found himself assigned a couple of unusual tasks: catching his mother’s toss from in front of the pitcher’s mound, and then serving as the leadoff hitter. In his first 35 major league starts, Astudillo had hit in the other eight spots in the batting order, so batting first Sunday made him 9-for-9. Similarly, he has played eight of the nine positions on the diamond in his career, as DH, too.
Leadoff hitters are known for seeing lots of pitches, trying to coax walks. That’s not exactly Astudillo’s style, given that he had walked three times in 150 plate appearances before Sunday. But that’s OK, Baldelli said.
“Probably the most important quality of a good leadoff hitter is just being a good hitter, as opposed to trying to fit a lot of different people into a specific mold,” Baldelli said. “Willians will fit the role well.”
Astudillo went 1-for-5 with a double. But it was his pregame role that stood out for him.
“Super proud and happy that she’s here,” Astudillo said of his mother, a native of Venezuela. “I’m going to spend this day with her, and it’s going to be special for her and for myself and my family.”
To make room for Astudillo, the Twins sent Fernando Romero back to Rochester, meaning they will operate with a seven-man bullpen and four-man bench, at least for now.
That’s made possible, in part, by the innings they are getting from their starting pitchers, none of whom has pitched fewer than five innings in a start since mid-April. “Our bullpen’s been pretty well-rested,” Baldelli said. “We have the ability to use those guys as we see fit because of it, so yeah, it gives you a little bit of a cushion.”