HomeMLB RumorsTwins Notes: Lewis, Duran, Kepler

Twins Notes: Lewis, Duran, Kepler

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Twins fans received a positive update regarding injured third baseman Royce Lewis today with The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman noting that, per Minnesota head trainer Nick Paparesta, Lewis has resumed baseball activity and is “headed in the right direction,” with the start of a run progression on the horizon late next week.

It’s great news for the soon to be 25-year-old, who suffered what was termed a “severe” quad strain on Opening Day. Long regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in baseball, the first overall pick of the 2017 draft has done nothing but hit throughout his major league career with a .313/.369/.564 slash line since he made his debut back in 2022. That’s good for a sensational wRC+ of 159, but Lewis has been limited to just 71 games in the big leagues to this point in his career by a myriad of injuries, including torn ACLs in both 2021 and 2022.

While its easy to be pessimistic about Lewis’s health given his lengthy injury history, the fact that he’s already resumed baseball activities is heartening news given the fact that Lewis was initially expected to be shut down for an entire month before being re-evaluated. That would seemingly put him more than a week ahead of schedule, making a return as soon as sometime in the middle of next month a realistic target for the youngster.

Adding Lewis’s bat back to the lineup would surely provide a huge boost for Minnesota, as the club has scuffled to a 7-12 record in the early going this season while posting a collective wRC+ of just 78, good for bottom three in the majors. If Lewis were to return and take over some of the at-bats currently being offered to struggling veterans Kyle Farmer and Willi Castro, it could help transform the lineup and provide a spark to a team that’s already seven games back of the red hot Guardians for the AL Central crown early in the 2024 campaign.

Lewis isn’t the only key Twins player who could be gearing up for a return in the near future, however. Gleeman also notes that closer Jhoan Duran continued his rehab from an oblique strain with a 21-pitch session against live hitters yesterday. Manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including Gleeman) following the session that Duran looked like he was “just about ready” to face hitters in real games. Gleeman went on to add that Duran is expected to be cleared for a rehab assignment in the near future, and that the righty flamethrower could return to the big league club before the end of April despite initial concerns that he would be sidelined into next month.

Should Duran return to the big league club in short order, it would provide a major boost to a Twins bullpen that has largely handled itself well in his absence. While he’s yet to make an appearance this season, Duran has been among the most dominant relief arms in the sport since making his debut back in 2022 with a 2.15 ERA (191 ERA+) and a 2.85 FIP in 130 innings of work over the past two seasons. He stepped into the closer role for the club last year and performed admirably, picking up 27 saves in 32 chances. Griffin Jax has acted as the club’s top option in the ninth inning while Duran has been shelved.

Gleeman goes on to suggest that while Duran could return before the end of the month, outfielder Max Kepler figures to rejoin the club even sooner than that. Kepler was placed on the IL earlier this month due to a right knee contusion after fouling a ball off his knee on Opening Day but could be nearing a return, with Baldelli suggesting that Kepler is “close” to being ready to return and Gleeman indicating he could be back in the lineup for Minnesota as soon as Sunday.

Kepler scuffled badly prior to his stint on the shelf, going 1-for-20 with a walk to open the season, but was a key cog in the club’s lineup last year as he slashed a solid .260/.332/.484 while playing strong defense in right field. With Kepler out of the lineup, the Twins have been relying on a mix of Trevor Larnach, Manuel Margot, and Austin Martin to cover the outfield corners in his absence with Byron Buxton entrenched in center field.

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