Posted on August 9, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Things went from bad to worse for the first-place Minnesota Twins on Friday. With their lead atop the AL Central standings down to one game, the Twins have placed slugger Nelson Cruz on the 10-day injured list with a ruptured extensor carpi ulnaris tendon in his left wrist. The loss of Cruz comes in the middle of a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians, who are pushing the Twins for he top spot in the AL Central.
Cruz left Thursday’s loss to the Indians in the middle of his second at-bat following a swing and miss. He immediately grimaced after the swing and was in obvious pain. After a brief meeting with the trainer, Cruz came out of the game.
“We went out and checked on him, and he was feeling some discomfort,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after Thursday’s game. “You could tell once we got out there that we weren’t going to let him stay in there, or try to swing or do anything like that.”
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Cruz was feeling better on Friday and isn’t wearing a cast. He will see a specialist on Monday, which could be an ominous sign. However, the Twins are cautiously optimistic that Cruz will only be on the IL for the minimum of 10 days.
“It’s definitely very positive,” Baldelli said Friday. “We are still going to give him his time to let this healed and get another opinion on it — at least one — and go from there. It’s a pretty unusual situation that we all are kind of learning about at the same time.
Even if he only misses 10 days, Cruz going to the IL couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the Twins. In addition to being in the middle of a pivotal series with the Indians, Cruz has been the hottest hitter in baseball over the past few weeks. In his last 15 games, Cruz has 13 home runs and an OPS of 1.204. On the season, he’s hitting .292 with an OPS of 1.035, contributing 32 home runs to one of the most potent lineups in baseball. In other words, replacing him won’t be easy.
The silver lining is that the Twins have a fair amount of depth and versatility in their lineup. Players like Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez, and Luis Arraez can all play multiple positions, helping to free up players like Miguel Sano, C.J. Cron, and Jorge Polanco to replace Cruz as the team’s DH. In a way, it will help the Twins give players rest heading down the stretch now that they can rotate players in and out of the DH spot.
The downside, of course, is that no matter who ends up filling the spot in the lineup vacating by Cruz, there is bound to be a drop-off. As they find themselves in the middle of a tight division race, the Twins need Cruz to be in their lineup every day. Minnesota is also missing the likes of starter Michael Pineda and outfielder Byron Buxton. Injuries are starting to play a role in the team’s ability to hang onto first place.
Even if Cruz has a short stint on the IL, he will miss at least three vital head-to-head games against the Indians. Those three games could end up being the difference between winning the AL Central and having to fight for a Wild Cart spot. If the Twins end up losing their hold on the division, the injury to Cruz could be a big reason why.