Banged up Twins eager to end camp
Nagging injuries continue to creep up on Minnesota's roster
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins are always eager to see the end of Spring Training come, as it means the start of real games.But this year, the end of camp seems to be coming at an inopportune time, as the club has seen injuries pile up over the final few days leading up to Opening Day.
"We all like to say we'll get to the end of Spring Training healthy, but it's been kind of nuts lately," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The little bitty things are starting to nag on us, and I don't know if that's the extra week of Spring Training that we were worrying about. But we've got a few nagging things right now that we'd like to get through. Hopefully we will."With Spring Training a week longer this year due to the World Baseball Classic, the Twins have been fortunate to avoid the injury bug, for the most part. The only major injury that the club has dealt with this spring has been Joe Mauer's sore back, which has kept him off the field for all of Spring Training. Yet as the club gets ready to break camp on Saturday, the list of players banged up and bruised has continued to grow. That was the case again on Thursday, when the club placed projected Opening Day starter Scott Baker on the disabled list with stiffness in his right shoulder. First baseman Justin Morneau missed his third consecutive game on Thursday with stiffness in his back. Morneau said that he tweaked a muscle in the middle of his back while taking a swing in batting practice on Tuesday, and the past few days it's been a little tight and sore when he's tried to swing. But Morneau doesn't expect it to keep him out for the start of the regular season. "If it was Game No. 1 or Game No. 100, I'm sure I'd probably be out there," said Morneau, who hopes to play in the Twins' final spring contest on Saturday. "It's nothing I'm too concerned about. I just don't want it to be something that nags on when the season starts." Shortstop Nick Punto joined the injured list on Thursday, when he left the game against the Red Sox after falling on the baseball while trying to chase a popup in the fourth inning. Punto fell on his backside and his back landed on the ball. He was able to finish out the inning, even turning an inning-ending double play, but Gardenhire said that Punto was a little banged up afterward. "It was just one of those things he felt it in his back and hip from landing on the ball," Gardenhire said. "But they told me he'll be fine." Outfielder Delmon Young wasn't in the lineup again on Thursday due to a sore right shoulder, although he's expected to be back in the lineup on Friday when the Twins travel to play the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. There have been other positives on the injury front as well. Third baseman Joe Crede returned to the lineup on Thursday for the first time since getting drilled on the right hand by a pitch from Rays starter Matt Garza on Monday. Infielder Brian Buscher also got back on the field as a late-inning replacement at first base one day after having a scare with soreness in his chest. The Twins sent Buscher to a Fort Myers, Fla., hospital on Wednesday as a precaution after he arrived at the ballpark with a little tenderness in the tissue near his sternum. Buscher said he was given an EKG exam, a chest X-ray and had some blood work done, and when everything came back clear, he was sent back to the club's complex. The doctors told Buscher that he likely was suffering from dehydration after playing nine innings in the heat on Tuesday, and they said he likely did something to tweak some of the tissue on the left side of his chest. He was feeling much better on Thursday and didn't expect the issue to linger. But while many of the players are getting back on the field, there are still question marks as to just how healthy the club will be when it breaks camp -- leaving the team to once again ponder keeping only 11 pitchers for the start of the season. The Twins have not made their final roster cut of the spring, as they currently still 26 active players in camp. The team has been pretty firm in its belief that it will need 12 pitchers, as it has 14 straight games to start the season. With both Baker and pitcher Boof Bonser going on the DL on Thursday, the club reduced its number of pitchers in camp to 12. That would mean one position player has to be cut if the club was to break camp with 12 pitchers, with the likely move being that the club will send infielder Matt Tolbert to Triple-A Rochester. But with so many position players banged up, Minnesota is considering entering the year with one additional bench player. "We're seeing how ugly this thing gets before we make any decisions," Gardenhire said. "A lot can happen in two more days." While it may seem like a lot of injuries for the final week, Twins general manager Bill Smith said that this situation isn't unusual. "I think it's fairly common that this last week, the aches and pains come out a little bit more," Smith said. "They've been down here now six weeks going through the same routine. It's time to move up north and let the games start to count."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.