Luis Arraez played in his first game since May 23 on Friday, tallying one hit and one RBI for the St. Paul Saints.
The Twins utility player led off for the Triple-A squad and played second base Saturday after previously manning left field. And he hoped his rehab assignment might end there.
"I'm almost back," Arraez said.
Arraez hurt his right shoulder sliding hands first into second base May 22 at Cleveland. While he played the rest of the game as well as the next, he eventually went on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain from a partial dislocation.
Arraez said hitting and throwing were equally difficult for his shoulder, but he's now pain-free. And despite almost three weeks away from baseball, he said he never lost his timing at the plate.
"It's right here," Arraez said, pointing to his temple. "Mentally."
Something Arraez did try to leave behind with his injury was his sliding technique. Instead of letting his instincts take hold, he said he will only slide feet first now.
Byron Buxton was also in the Saints lineup Saturday at center field, batting behind Arraez while continuing to rehab his right hip. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the team will evaluate Arraez and Buxton on Sunday to see if they're ready to rejoin the major league team.
That's exciting for the bubbly Arraez, who has missed being with his teammates.
"When they tell you that you're going to the IL," Arraez said in Spanish through an interpreter, "the uncertainty, like you don't know how long, couple weeks, maybe a month. You're hurting and things like that. You just want to be there for your teammates and support them and support the cause of winning games. And when you're not able to do that, it just makes me sad."
Gordon at center
Although Nick Gordon filled in at center field twice in the Twins' recent Yankees series, Saturday marked his first start there.
Players from Arraez to Alex Kirilloff to Max Kepler said they were impressed with the rookie infielder's ability to pick up a new position so quickly.
"Honestly, I just think Nick is good overall defensively," Kirilloff said of Gordon, whose father, Tom, is a former MLB pitcher. "A lot of that has to do with his really good instincts, just playing a lot of baseball growing up."
Kirilloff, in right field Saturday, has been playing through an ankle sprain as part of an injury-riddled outfield. He said the ankle doesn't inhibit his hitting. It's just jogging that hurts.
Kepler, out with a left hamstring strain, said he ran the bases Saturday and came out feeling fine.
"I feel like everyone's kind of playing with some injuries and dings these days," Kepler said. "… We don't know what's going on. All teams seem to be battling injuries, and we've been trying to figure out why, too. It makes you wonder, but I can't really tell you why."
Besides the injuries, Kepler also noted how all the social-distancing protocols during the pandemic have divided the team. But he believes that's returning to normal, with couches back in the clubhouse and everyone able to eat together again — albeit standing up, since the chairs are still gone.
Baldelli has mentioned how injury issues have made it difficult to make roster moves, especially when considering the 40-man roster. That's partly why Gilberto Celestino rose from Double-A to the majors instead of Keon Broxton at Triple-A St. Paul. Celestino was on the 40-man roster and Broxton was not, so the Twins didn't have to make another move to make room for him.
Baldelli said he's having similar issues with pitchers as the team exhausts its bullpen fairly often now.
"We don't necessarily have the options of just making moves to give ourselves more innings and more position players right now," Baldelli said. "We're very, very tight, so we're kind of of the mind-set where we're going to have to make do right now and find ways to win with the guys that we have."