Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman (Twitter link) and other reporters that the club will activate Max Kepler and Royce Lewis from the injured list prior to Monday’s game with the Astros. Kepler has been on the 10-day IL, while Lewis will make his season debut after spending all of 2023 on the 60-day IL. Outfielders Kyle Garlick and Matt Wallner have both already been optioned to Triple-A to create roster space.
It was just short of a year ago that Lewis went onto the 10-day IL with what appeared to be a bone bruise in his right knee, but the worst-case scenario occurred when Lewis needed to undergo surgery to fix a torn ACL. It was the second ACL surgery in as many years for Lewis, which wiped out his entire 2021 season. Due to his injuries and the canceled 2020 minor league season, Lewis has only played in 56 total games (12 in the majors, 44 in the minors) since the end of the 2019 minor league season.
In the wake of two major knee surgeries, it is hard to know exactly what to expect from Lewis (the first overall pick of the 2017 draft) as he again restarts his career. However, he hit .300/.317/.550 in his only 41 career MLB plate appearances, and he has a 1.088 OPS over 43 PA in the minors this year, and Lewis has apparently had little to no issue running or pivoting, so his knee appears to be holding up.
Since Lewis has gotten an equal amount of time at third base and shortstop in the minors this year, it stands to reason that he’ll get a look at third base in the big leagues, as the hot corner has been a bit of a question mark. Jose Miranda’s struggles resulted in a demotion to the minors, and while the utilityman collective of Kyle Farmer, Willi Castro, and Donovan Solano have held the fort, the Twins surely want to see what Lewis can bring to the table. Carlos Correa is naturally the starter at shortstop, though Lewis might get some time at short as well depending on how Minnesota manages Correa’s plantar fasciitis (which has yet to send Correa to the IL).
Though such notables as Jorge Polanco, Kenta Maeda, Nick Gordon remain sidelined, the Twins are slowly inching closer to full health after dealing with a plethora of injuries all season along. Kepler missed just over two weeks with a hamstring strain, which came after a previous IL stint earlier this season due to right patellar tendinitis. Kepler has a modest .212/.298/.444 slash line through 114 PA, but he is looking to boost that production now that his injuries are hopefully behind him. Since Minnesota holds a $10MM club option on Kepler for the 2024 season, the outfielder is looking for a big year to either convince the Twins to exercise that option, or to impress suitors on the free agent market.