Posted on August 3, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Three days after they’re no longer able to trade for reinforcements, the Minnesota Twins have lost two key players to the Injured List. Saturday, the Twins placed both center fielder Byron Buxton and starter Michael Pineda on the 10-day IL. Buxton is suffering from left shoulder subluxation while Pineda has been sidelined by a triceps strain.
Buxton suffered his injury Thursday when he crashed into the outfield wall while trying to make a catch. He stayed in the game but wasn’t able to play on Friday. Buxton was initially considered day-to-day, but the Twins will now give him at least 10 days to recuperate. He’s back on the IL just over a week after Buxton returned from the IL after experiencing concussion-like symptoms. This is his third stint on the IL this season.
When he hasn’t been on the IL this season, Buxton has enjoyed a breakout season. He’s currently hitting .262 with an OPS of .827. Buxton is also becoming one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, so the Twins will miss his presence on both sides of the ball. Max Kepler will slide over to center field in Buxton’s absence while utility man Marwin Gonzalez will see most of his playing time come in right field. Jake Cave has been called up from triple-A and adds depth to Minnesota’s outfield.
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On the bright side, the Twins welcomed first baseman C.J. Cron back from the IL on Saturday. Cron has had two separate stints on the IL over the past month because of thumb inflammation. He’s hitting .263 with an OPS of .814 this season, which should help the Twins replace Buxton’s offensive production. However, Minnesota’s outfield defense may be noticeably worse without him.
As for Pineda, his IL trip is a little more out of the blue than Buxton. He started Thursday’s game against the Marlins, allowing just one run over six innings, showing no signs of anything being wrong physically. Pineda had a brief stint on the IL earlier this year because of a knee issue. The Twins are obviously hopeful that he can avoid a long absence. In 21 starts this year, he’s 7-5 with a 4.15, becoming a reliable member of Minnesota’s rotation after missing all of 2018 because of Tommy John surgery and a torn meniscus.
The Twins don’t have another off-day until August 12, meaning they will need to replace Pineda at least two turns through their rotation. Minnesota has only required five starts this year from pitchers outside the five who began the season in the rotation. Young lefty Devin Smeltzer has impressed in his four major league outings this year. Fellow lefty Lewis Thorpe could also be a candidate to make a spot start or two.
Obviously, the Twins are hopeful that both Buxton and Pineda will be able to return from the IL in short order. But this is a bad time to lose two key players. Minnesota’s lead over the Indians in the AL Central sits at three games. They need to be at full strength if they hope to hold off Cleveland and win the division. If either Buxton or Pineda ends up missing more than 10 days, it could have a significant impact on Minnesota’s chances of winning the division in 2019.