MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins have just one week left in the regular season and less than two weeks until the American League Division Series begin. As they inch toward clinching a spot in the playoffs, two important players are inching closer to a return.
Max Kepler hasn’t had an at-bat in nine days, not since the previous Saturday against the Indians, but the outfielder pinch ran on Saturday at Target Field and has been recovering from the rhomboid strain that has kept him sidelined for much of the month. He has started just two games — the doubleheader against Cleveland on Sept. 14 — since Sept. 8, when he exited a game early with the issue.
“I think our goal was to keep him swinging in the cage and now get him outside,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Hopefully get him hitting off the Velo machine a little bit, start testing him out a little bit. I’m not sure which day we’re doing it, but I think that’s coming up early this week.”
Infielder Ehire Adrianza also has had positive developments as he works to recover from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since Sept. 12. He went through infield work on Saturday, and though Baldelli has said he is not close to returning, he is progressing in the right direction.
“From everything I heard, if you watched him, you probably wouldn’t even know that he had an issue,” Baldelli said.
Garver leaves game
Mitch Garver left Sunday’s 12-8 victory over Kansas City with what the Twins termed as right hip tightness. The move was precautionary, they say, and Garver is day to day.
Garver said he has been dealing with the issue since high school, but this week he’s had a heavier workload than normal. He said he could have stayed in and finished the game, but he said they were “looking towards one week from now, not necessarily right now.”
“Mitch is going to be OK. We’re going to probably take a little bit of a deeper look to make sure he’s fine, but it’s mainly precautionary. He’s been out there a good bit lately,” Baldelli said. “He’s been playing well. It’s just something that started barking a little bit, and he’s a little sore, but I think he’s going to be fine.”
Jorge Alcala had been waiting patiently in the Twins bullpen for more than a week to get intp his first Major League game. When he finally did, the Twins threw him in a pressure-packed situation, but were pleased with how he handled it, given the circumstances.
The Twins called Alcala up on Sept. 14, but he didn’t debut until Saturday night, entering with the bases loaded in the ninth inning after Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger already had pitched.
Baldelli said he would have preferred to have had at least one base open for Alcala, but was a situation that “made sense” to get him into.
“He still found a way to throw strikes. He gave us a chance,” Baldelli said. “They put the ball in play and a couple of things happened, but I thought he threw the ball well, and I think he should be very happy with his debut.”
Alcala got the Twins out of the inning, though he did give up a couple of inherited runs. Alcala said he was a little anxious and nervous because of the situation with the bases loaded, but he tried his best to calm himself down so he could produce.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be that way, but you just have to be ready,” he said. “When my name got called in the bullpen, I was ready to go. As ready as possible.”