There is so little left of the squad the Twins should send this season
The Twins signed veteran Billy Hamilton, a fast ping hitter, on Aug. 25. It was the outfielder’s 10th organization in four seasons since leaving Cincinnati, and his third stoppage in 2022.
Byron Buxton had been sidelined three days earlier with a knee injury that turned into a hip injury. Manager Rocco Baldelli and other Twins representatives have been asked if Hamilton’s signing should be taken as a sign that the club are pessimistic about a Buxton return.
The Twins’ response was that Hamilton’s signing was unrelated to Buxton’s last trip to the disabled list. Almost three weeks later and with no reason to anticipate a Buxton return for the remaining 15% of the schedule, I’m beginning to suspect the Twins were lying.
Hamilton was added to the roster Sept. 1 as a backup outfielder and potential replacement for No. 1 center fielder Gilberto Celestino.
Coming in Friday, Hamilton had a start in left field and was 0-for-2 with a steal catch.
Hamilton has been unable to compete at home plate since his wandering began. What his presence tells us is the serious personal situation the Twins find themselves in while the exploration of AL Central is being decided.
We’ve been tough on this outfit for weeks, and it’s hard not to be for a few reasons:
They wasted a chance to win Game 1 of a doubleheader on Wednesday in New York when third baseman coach Tommy Watkins made a serious error trying to dismiss Celestino from second base without out.
They also made four errors later in that 5-4 loss.
They rode in Game 2, 7-1, and then, even on Thursday when they survived 4-3, there were some puzzling moments:
What happened to Jorge Lopez, Baltimore’s coveted closest get, with his inability to throw strikes and have stress-free innings with his 97 mph lead?
And thank the baseball gods for his bat, but what was up with rookie first baseman Jose Miranda when he took off for the second base hole rather than cover his base quickly on the final out?
He rushed back, kicked the bag with his foot, finally found it and took the second throw for the final out.
Complaints are everywhere, but the bottom line is this:
We haven’t seen the Twins A team in weeks.
Veteran Jake Cave was roughly No. 7 in the pecking order of potential outfielders for the Twins when he traveled to St. Paul to start the season.
He returned to the Twins on August 1 and has now become almost a fixture in the roster.
No Buxton. No Alex Kirilloff (another wrist operation). No Trevor Larnach (long rehab). Not Royce Lewis, he with the experience of three innings in center field before hitting the fence and returning to another knee surgery.
They’ve had a projected starting outfielder in Max Kepler for most of the season. If that was 2023, when the field change is gone as made official by MLB on Friday, that could be cause for optimism.
All those infielders stuck to the right side, and the gap to right center being covered, helped keep Kepler’s average at .231. But now he was out again on Friday with a sore hip.
The biggest loss of all was Jorge Polanco, the previously durable second baseman. He can hit 1-4 as a switch hitter, had been close to ironman, but now he hasn’t been in the lineup since Aug. 27 due to an ailing knee.
Asked about the possibility of recovering Polanco this weekend, Baldelli was pessimistic.
For that key contest with the first-place Guardians, the Twins had Nick Gordon in fourth. He’s been good at the plate, but he’s also a long-awaited prospect who had a chance of being on the road had Lewis not been injured in early June.
I’ve done more than my share of howling over the Twins’ pitching decisions (whose idea put rookie Louie Varland on a roster that keeps him in the minors until next weekend?) and giddy moments, but here’s the “but”:
The Twins headed into this showdown against the Guardians with three regulars projected at the start of the season – Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela – in the line-up.
And that make-as-you-go formation was down 4-0 in the rain, delayed before they even got to home plate.
AL Central is the only divisional race the Twins could compete in and, given the limitations Baldelli currently faces, they don’t really belong in it.