FORT MYERS, FLA. – Nelson Cruz continues to reap the benefits of a condition that sounds like a calamity but has turned out to be a blessing.
Cruz, whose extensor carpi ulnaris — the tendon that helps control the up-and-down motion in his left wrist — tore away from the bone last June, was hit by a Cody Stashak pitch during live batting practice Wednesday. The up-and-in pitch struck Cruz’s wrist, right where the tendon should be, and Cruz flinched in pain.
But only for a couple of minutes. And the team’s doctors quickly determined that no damage was done, outside of a bruise that should disappear quickly.
“It hit me where I had the tendon rupture, so I guess it didn’t hurt to swing. It just hurt from the [ball],” Cruz said. “That’s a good thing, that I didn’t have that tendon there.”
The tendon is still there, actually, but it is shriveled down his arm, no longer connected. That’s a condition that Cruz has lived with, and thrived with, since the rupture last year. What is often a serious injury requiring surgery for most batters turned out to be good fortune for Cruz, who went on to hit 34 more home runs last summer.
Just to be safe, though, the Twins had Cruz’s wrist X-rayed Wednesday and found no damage.
“Nellie went inside, got checked out. It looks like just a bruise,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’re going to make sure he’s OK before he gets back out there. I’m sure it won’t be long.”
The Twins, like most pro athletes, are accustomed to providing samples for drug testing. On Wednesday, there were specimen cups in the bathrooms again, but for a different reason.
The Twins are undertaking a sweat study this season, trying to measure how quickly their players become dehydrated during a game and to quantify the benefits of avoiding it. “It’s not a new concept. You hear, ‘Drink more water,’ in probably every dugout,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations. “But we’re trying to track it, measure the effects, and see if we can realize some benefits.”
It’s the latest in a series of research projects the Twins are using in hopes of maximizing their players’ abilities.
“We know dehydration can be a contributor to soft-tissue injuries. It’s not the reason, but it affects how susceptible you are to them, how severe they might be,” Falvey said. He described a presentation about the theory, in which a lecturer compared a steak and beef jerky. “Which one has more water?” Falvey said. “That’s the effect that water can have.”
So each Twin was asked to provide a urine sample Wednesday that will be used to determine each player’s baseline sodium levels, in hopes of developing individual programs — usually no more extensive than scheduling and monitoring regular electrolyte or water breaks — for each.
It’s possible the Twins may reconsider what they provide in the dugout, too, considering that gum and the salt in sunflower seeds — both of which are in abundance on the bench — contribute to dehydration.
• The Twins added Class AA catcher Caleb Hamilton to the major league camp roster on Wednesday. The 2016 23rd-round draft pick can also play first and third base.
Travis Blankenhorn, IF-OF
2019 stats: Hit a career-high 19 home runs, 18 of them after being promoted to Class AA Pensacola. Also was safe on all 11 stolen-base tries and is now 38-for-45 (. 844) for his career.
Acquired: Taken in third round, 80th overall, in the 2015 draft.
Role: Now that he’s on the 40-man major league roster, he figures to reach Class AAA Rochester sometime in 2020.
Did you know? The Pottsville, Pa., infielder was drafted as a third baseman but began moving around the diamond soon after turning pro. Last year, the versatile Blankenhorn started 70 games at second base, 24 in left field and only two at third base.