OAKLAND, CALIF. – When Nelson Cruz was swinging Wednesday, slugging two home runs through the bay breeze, he looked like his usual dominant self.
It was when he had to jog around the bases that his injury became evident. Anything less than a home run, and Cruz likely wouldn't have even hobbled halfway to first base before being thrown out.
"Nelly was having a tough time getting around," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… It was very visible that he was not feeling good. We knew going into the game he was struggling a little bit, and his ankle was hurting. But he said he was good to play, and he went out there and obviously swung the bat pretty good. But as the day went on, I think it either stiffened up or swelled to the point where he was not really able to swing or move anymore."
Cruz took a pitch off his right ankle late in Tuesday's doubleheader, forcing the Twins to use a pinch-runner. Some in-game taping up Wednesday helped Cruz make it through most of the game, and the Twins really couldn't spare him with an already depleted lineup because of COVID-19 issues and injuries.
Miguel Sano fell into that latter category with Cruz, but he didn't suit up for Wednesday's loss at all. He had sat out the second game of the doubleheader with a right hamstring strain.
Baldelli said before the game Wednesday it was a little early to tell the extent of Sano's injury.
"We're talking about a guy who does not complain. We're talking about a guy that plays through a lot of different things, as much as anybody could possibly play through," Baldelli said. "So when he mentions that he's unsure if he can go, and [that] he's having trouble moving, I get a little concerned at that point that it's more than just a very minor strain."
Riddle added to COVID list
Infielder JT Riddle, whom the Twins called up from the taxi squad Tuesday, is the latest player to go on the COVID injury list. He did not test positive for COVID-19, Baldelli said, but Baldelli was reluctant to say Riddle's inclusion on the list was because of contact tracing.
"There are a lot of different COVID protocols. JT falls within one of them," Baldelli said. "He'll be also traveling on his own back to Minneapolis where he'll quarantine there for a period of time, and then hopefully by the end of the week, we'll have this resolved with him."
Players can also end up on the COVID-19 IL for breaking some of the league's strict protocols and potentially exposing themselves to the virus, such as if they were to not wear a mask, fail to social distance or even go out to dinner or socialize with people outside the team bubble.
Riddle has played in four games this season. Tomas Telis, the only member of the taxi squad left, took his spot. The catcher, who spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site in St. Paul, has been in 122 major league games for Texas and Miami.
Max Kepler, Andrelton Simmons and Kyle Garlick tested positive previously and are also on the COVID injury list, along with Caleb Thielbar, who had close contact with someone who tested positive. Kepler, Thielbar and Garlick are quarantined in an Anaheim hotel along with a staff member who tested positive. Baldelli said those four should have been able to travel home Wednesday, likely on a private charter.
The Twins' Friday game at Target Field is still set for a 7:10 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The organization had considered altering the game time in the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict.