The Twins signed veteran Billy Hamilton, a speedy ping hitter, on Aug. 25. This was the outfielder's 10th organization in the four seasons since leaving Cincinnati, and his third stop in 2022.

Byron Buxton had been sidelined three days earlier with a knee injury that had become a hip injury. Manager Rocco Baldelli and other Twins representatives were asked if the Hamilton signing should be taken as a sign the club was pessimistic about a return by Buxton.

The Twins' answer was the Hamilton signing was unrelated to Buxton's latest trip to the injured list. Nearly three weeks later and with no reason to anticipate a Buxton return during the 15% of the schedule that remains, I'm beginning to suspect the Twins were fibbing.

Hamilton was added to the roster on Sept. 1 as a spare outfielder and potential backup for now No. 1 center fielder Gilberto Celestino.

Entering Friday, Hamilton had one start in left field and was 0-for-2 with a caught stealing.

Hamilton hasn't been able to compete at the plate since his wandering started. What his presence tells us is the serious personnel predicament the Twins find themselves in while the AL Central crawl is being decided.

We've been tough on this outfit for weeks, and it's hard not to be for several reasons:

They lost a chance to win the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday in New York when third base coach Tommy Watkins erred grievously by trying to send home Celestino from second base with no outs.

They also threw in four errors later on in that 5-4 loss.

They rolled over in the second game, 7-1, and then, even on Thursday when they survived 4-3, there were puzzling moments:

What has become of Jorge Lopez, the coveted closer obtained from Baltimore, with his failure to throw strikes and have stress-free innings with his 97-miles-per-hour sinker?

And thank the baseball gods for his bat, but what was going on with novice first baseman Jose Miranda when he took off for the second-base hole rather than promptly covering his base on the last out?

He rushed back, took a stab at the bag with his foot, finally found it and took the throw from second for the last out.

Complaints are everywhere, but the bottom line is this:

We haven't seen the Twins' A team in weeks.

Veteran Jake Cave was roughly No. 7 on the pecking order for Twins potential outfielders when he went to St. Paul to start the season.

He made it back to the Twins on Aug. 1 and now has become almost a fixture in the lineup.

No Buxton. No Alex Kirilloff (another wrist surgery). No Trevor Larnach (long rehab). No Royce Lewis, he with the three-inning experiment in center field before he smacked the fence and headed back to another knee surgery.

They have had one projected starting outfielder in Max Kepler for most of the season. If this was 2023, when the fielding shift will be gone as made official by MLB on Friday, that might be cause for optimism.

All those infielders jammed to the right side, and the right-center gap being covered, have helped keep Kepler's average to .231. But now he was out again Friday with a sore hip.

The greatest loss of all has been Jorge Polanco, the previously durable second baseman. He can hit 1 through 4 as a switch hitter, had been close to ironman, but now he hasn't been in the lineup since Aug. 27 because of an ailing knee.

Asked about the possibility of getting back Polanco this weekend, Baldelli sounded pessimistic.

For this key contest with the first-place Guardians, the Twins had Nick Gordon hitting fourth. He has been good at the plate, but he's also a long-awaited prospect who had a chance to be down the road if Lewis hadn't been hurt in early June.

I've done more than my share of howling over Twins pitching decisions (who had the brainstorm to put rookie Louie Varland on a list that keeps him in the minors until next weekend?) and empty-headed moments, but here's the "but":

The Twins headed into this showdown vs. the Guardians with three projected regulars at season's start — Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela — in the lineup.

And that make-it-up-as-you-go-along lineup was down 4-0 in the rain-delayed first before ever getting to the plate.

The AL Central is the only division race the Twins could be in and, considering the limitations now facing Baldelli, they don't really belong in this one.