Max Kepler and Logan Darnell were in the Twins’ clubhouse Tuesday afternoon, both delighted to be in the major leagues. But it’s unlikely that either one will get much playing time over the season’s final two weeks.
Kepler was celebrating Chattanooga’s Southern League championship Monday night, after beating Biloxi 4-0 in the fifth game of the best-of-five series, when he approached manager Doug Mientkiewicz to give him the game ball. Mientkiewicz gave Kepler something even better. “He congratulated me on the great year, [and said] ‘You’re getting moved up,’ “ Kepler said. “I was speechless. I was about to cry. I don’t cry much, but I was tearing up. … It was amazing.”
He called his sister Emma in Tallahassee, and his mother Kathy in Berlin, both of whom immediately booked flights to Minneapolis to be here for tonight’s game.
Kepler, an outfielder and first baseman, isn’t in the lineup tonight, and manager Paul Molitor said he can’t guarantee, in the midst of a postseason race, that he’ll get more than a stray at-bat here and there over the remaining couple of weeks.
“It’s going to be tough to insert him in very many situations,” Molitor said. “I know he can run, I know he can play defense, I know he can put together a good at-bat against right and left. I would love to give him a chance to get exposed up here, but I just can’t predict how it’s going to play out.”
Meanwhile, Darnell was back in the clubhouse after missing a week with pneumonia, an illness he can’t figure out how he contracted. He first felt sick on Sept. 10 in Chicago, and within two days, his lungs had filled with fluid. He was never hospitalized, but couldn’t get out of bed for several days, and lost 17 pounds from the ordeal.
He’s back now, but since he hasn’t pitched in nearly three weeks, he’s far from ready to go. He’ll stay behind when the Twins depart for Detroit on Thursday, and will focus on building his strength back up for winter ball in Venezuela.
The Twins are three games out of a wild-card spot with 13 games to play, and Cleveland — who meets Minnesota seven times between now and season’s end, starting tonight at Target Field — is 4 1/2 games back, so although it’s scoreboard-watching time, it’s most important simply to win the game in front of you. Ervin Santana goes tonight against Danny Salazar, who has beaten the Twins twice this year, allowing three runs over 13 innings.
Here are tonight’s lineups: