His strained right calf finally healed, third baseman Josh Donaldson is set to return to the Twins lineup as early as Wednesday.
Donaldson has missed 27 games because of the injury, which falls in line with similar injuries in the past. A left calf strain in 2018 with Toronto knocked him out of all of June, July and nearly all of August. And he missed more than a month because of a right calf strain in 2017.
He as been working out and playing in intrasquad games at CHS Field in recent days to as close to game ready as possible. That included facing Michael Pineda, who returned from his PED-related suspension on Tuesday, a few times.
“Josh is doing great,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I would expect to see him in a matter of a day I would say, or two. But we’re gonna continue to just keep an eye on him. We generally, as we know, don’t get too far ahead of ourselves and make announcements early. But he’s doing great, moving around very well, swinging the bat well.
Donaldson was hitting only .182 at the time of the injury, but he pounded 37 home runs and drove in 94 runs last season for Atlanta, so his bat is sorely needed in an offense that has fallen well off the pace of the 2019 BombaSquad that hit an MLB-record 307 home runs.
This season, the Twins are 22nd in baseball with a .401 slugging percentage. Against lefthanded pitchers, it’s .348. Opponents have noticed and will schedule lefthanders against them going forward. So it’s vital for the Twins to get righthanded hitters such as Donaldson and Byron Buxton, the latter returning to action Tuesday, in the lineup.
Donaldson’s needed, even if he has to knock off some rust.
“Anytime he’s not hitting an extra-base hit or a homer or a screaming liner somewhere, he always gets upset at himself,” Baldelli said. “But he put some really good swings on the ball. I would expect to see him out on the field very soon. It shouldn’t be very long.”
Supersized leadoff man
Speaking of battling lefthanders, Baldelli had a new wrinkle in his lineup — Miguel Sano in the leadoff spot.
Baldelli has used Mitch Garver in the leadoff spot against lefthanders in the past, but Garver is on the injured list. So Sano, listed at 272 pounds, stepped in Tuesday as probably one of the biggest leadoff hitters ever.
“It could potentially do a few things,” Baldelli said. “One, most importantly, he’s been a guy who’s just been really dynamic with the bat in his hands. He’s a guy that has generally been excellent against lefthanded pitching. The opportunity to get him up top and maybe even get him an extra at-bat at some point in the game or an extra at-bat against a lefty is always a good thing.”
Sano actually has assumed the role once before. In game 160 last season, Sano led off a game against the Royals with a single off Eric Skoglund. He batted again in the second inning and homered off Skoglund.
“You never know what you are going to see,” Baldelli said. “But everyone is kind of excited and he’s got a smile on his face. He was pretty happy to be in the leadoff spot. I think he likes it.”
The Twins had to make room on the active roster for Pineda and Buxton.
Outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. was optioned to the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul, and the team designated righthander Juan Minaya for release or assignment.
Minaya was added to the roster Saturday from the taxi squad but never appeared in a game. He actually warmed up at one point Monday during the loss to the White Sox.