HomeMLB RumorsTwins Notes: Woods Richardson, Varland, Headrick, Lee

Twins Notes: Woods Richardson, Varland, Headrick, Lee

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The Twins optioned right-hander Louie Varland to Triple-A St. Paul yesterday, creating a vacancy in the rotation in the process. That spot will be filled by right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson, writes Bobby Nightengale of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, noting that manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed as much following yesterday’s moves. Woods Richardson will take the ball Friday in Anaheim.

It took longer than the team might’ve hoped, but adding the 23-year-old Woods Richardson to the rotation means the Twins will now have both prospects they acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for Jose Berrios contributing on the big league club. Woods Richardson already tossed six innings of one-run ball in a spot start against the Tigers earlier this year and showed a notable velocity uptick (93.4 mph average, up from 91 mph in two spot starts in 2022-23). Meanwhile, infielder/outfielder Austin Martin has delivered a .268/.318/.439 slash in his first 44 MLB plate appearances this season. The former No. 5 overall pick has homered, hit four doubles and fanned only six times (13.8%) early in his MLB tenure.

Varland, a St. Paul native, was expected to enter spring training in a competition with veteran Anthony DeSclafani that would determine who won the team’s fifth starter job. Instead, DeSclafani required season-ending surgery to repair his flexor tendon, effectively giving Varland the five spot by default.

Varland entered the season with a career 4.40 ERA, 23.7% strikeout rate and 5.9% walk rate in 94 big league innings, so the former top prospect was hardly unqualified for the job. However, Varland’s previously plus command has evaporated in the early stages of the season. He walked 10.3% of his opponents and was also missing frequently within the zone, evidenced by a lack of missed bats (a paltry 7.6% swinging-strike rate) and a glaring six homers in 16 2/3 frames (3.24 HR/9). He’ll continue to work as a starter with the Saints for the time being and could be an option if he gets back on track and/or an injury occurs elsewhere in the rotation.

The rotation depth took a further hit when lefty Brent Headrick was transferred from the 7-day IL in Triple-A to the 60-day IL just yesterday. Headrick, who made his MLB debut last season, recently suffered a forearm strain. It appears the injury is significant enough that he’ll be sidelined for multiple months. The lefty posted a combined 3.32 ERA in 108 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2022 before turning in a 4.68 ERA in 75 Triple-A frames last year. His first taste of the big leagues produced a grisly 6.31 ERA in 25 2/3 innings, though that came in a long relief setting and a disproportionate amount of the damage came in one nightmare outing where he five runs to the Red Sox and only completed one inning.

Headrick’s injury isn’t the only minor league injury of note for the Twins, though. Infielder Brooks Lee, the No. 8 overall pick in 2022 who’s widely considered to be one of the game’s 25 to 50 best prospects, has been out all season with a lower back strain. Triple-A skipper Toby Gardenhire said early in the season that the hope was Lee would only be down three to four weeks, but Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic now reports it’ll be a much lengthier absence.

Per Gleeman, Lee has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back. He’s working with renowned spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins but is only about three weeks into what’ll now be a two-month rehab plan. That’ll take Lee out of consideration for any near-term promotion. For a Twins team that’s currently without Royce Lewis and Carlos Correa, it’s a notable blow.

The 23-year-old Lee is generally viewed as near MLB-ready. He struggled in his first taste of Triple-A in the second half of the 2023 season but produced a stout .292/.365/.476 slash in 399 Double-A plate appearances. Lee walked at a 10.3% clip against just a 15.8% strikeout rate in Double-A while also popping 11 homers and 31 doubles. He’s played shortstop almost exclusively in the minors, and if Lee were healthy, he’d likely have been an option to replace either Lewis or Correa by this point in the season.

Once healthy, Lee could emerge as the Twins’ long-term option at second base, with Edouard Julien sliding over to first base — or Lee could simply oscillate between multiple positions in a super-utility role that provides him regular at-bats. For now, the focus will simply be on rehabbing his back with an eye toward a return this summer.

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