Designated hitter deluxe Nelson Cruz was out of the lineup for a second consecutive day because of lingering hip soreness, but the Twins continue to be optimistic about him returning sooner than later.
Brent Rooker took over at DH for the second game in a row while the Twins and Cruz wait for his hip to improve.
“Yesterday I thought there was a pretty good chance that Nellie would play today,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’re opting for one more day.”
Cruz, batting .329 with 13 homers and 29 RBI, is the Twins’ best bat, so any lingering issue could have a significant impact on a team that has struggled to score runs this season. But the Twins were able to score eight runs Sunday without him and beat the Tigers 6-2 on Monday.
Everyone is at a loss to explain how Cruz picked up the injury.
“His hip in general, just his hip and his side, have been sore,” Baldelli said. “I’m not really sure why. I don’t think he’s 100 percent sure why. Could have slept funny. Could have just woken up with something. It’s not like there was any sort of acute, onset, just kind of woke up with it. It’s been a couple of days where it’s kind of lingered a little bit. I do have some hopes that he’ll be ready and able tomorrow for the doubleheader.”
After Monday’s victory the Twins headed for St. Louis, where they will face the Cardinals in two seven-inning games on Tuesday. The two-game series originally was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, but the Cardinals are trying to make up games lost to coronavirus and needed to create an off day.
The Twins had no problem with that deal. The one-day road trip is peculiar, but they get two consecutive off days — Thursday is a regularly scheduled off day — and are scheduled to play four fewer innings overall.
“It’s an interesting equation,” Baldelli said. “Very unusual. It was unusual when we were originally asked about doing this. But I think it’s probably one of those things where it’s six of one or half a dozen of the other. It puts us in a spot where we get the two off days in a row. We will work out one of those off days, so we’re not just sitting around for two consecutive days, which I think works fine. It allows everyone to catch up physically more than anything else.”
Catcher Mitch Garver has been out since Aug. 19 because of an intercostal strain, a tricky injury that can take a while to heal. But there are indications he is getting over the hump.
On Sunday, Garver went through a full workout, taking swings and making throws. There is a chance that, provided everything goes right, he could return by the end of the week.
Garver got off to a slow start at the plate before the injury, batting .154 over 17 games. But he won the Silver Slugger last season when he batted .273 with 31 home runs and 67 RBI in 93 games.
Smeltzer out, Stashak in
Devin Smeltzer turned 25 Monday. He celebrated by heading to St. Paul.
The lefthander was sent to the Twins’ alternate training camp at CHS Field after a rocky outing Sunday during which he gave up two runs on three hits and a walk over 1⅓ innings. In seven outings, he has given up 12 earned runs over 16 innings for a 6.75 ERA.
In his place, the Twins activated righthander Cody Stashak from the injured list. Stashak, who missed 23 games because of lower back inflammation, pitched a scoreless eighth inning Monday.
Smeltzer’s departure leaves the Twins with two lefties in the bullpen in Caleb Thielbar and closer Taylor Rogers.
Leading off, Wade
Baldelli’s lineup maneuvering on Monday led to him using his seventh different leadoff hitter of 2020: LaMonte Wade Jr.
It’s not a problem for Wade, who walked more than 60 times in each of his past two minor league seasons and walked 74 times at Class AA Chattanooga in 2017.
“LaMonte has exceptional at-bats,” Baldelli said. “He always has. He did last year when he came up and played with us. And that’s what kind of hitter he is. He combines a few different things when he goes up there. He does see the ball very well, so he doesn’t expand very much. But he’s also aggressive on balls in the zone.”
Wade also started at first base, something he did once with the Twins last year after never playing there in the minor leagues.