The Twins reinstated shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the injured list on Monday following his recovery from COVID-19, which had sidelined him since April 14.
Simmons had been ramping up his physical condition with workouts starting Friday after testing cleared him to return to the team, and the Twins felt good enough about his readiness for play to activate him before Monday’s game. Simmons was back in the starting lineup and hitting eighth for the series opener in Cleveland.
“He said he’s good to go,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’ll get another day on the field before the game with him. We’re going to be able to get even more work in. Get some swings, too. And he’ll be out there in the lineup. So I think he’s in a good spot.”
Simmons had not been able to do much physical activity while he had the virus, Baldelli said, and his conditioning was more of a restriction in his return timeline than his ability to see live at-bats.
Simmons was the first Twins player to test positive during the regular season. Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick and JT Riddle remain on the COVID-19 IL. Kepler and Garlick both tested positive for the virus, while Riddle is sidelined due to contact tracing.
In a corresponding move, the Twins optioned infielder Nick Gordon to the taxi squad. Gordon, the club’s first-round selection in the 2014 Draft, was called up for the first time for last weekend’s series against Pittsburgh following years of battling health issues, but he didn’t appear in a game.
Minnesota instead opted to keep utility man Tzu-Wei Lin for his ability to fill in around both the infield and outfield.
“I’m looking forward to seeing [Gordon] out there,” Baldelli said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him get his first AB and getting an opportunity. But right now, with everything going on, we just needed to go with the versatility.”
Buxton out of lineup with patellar tendinitis
The Twins were without Byron Buxton in their starting lineup on Monday due to a slight worsening of patellar tendinitis that he has been playing through all season, Baldelli said.
Buxton will undergo treatment on Monday, and Baldelli was hopeful that the center fielder would be back in the lineup on Tuesday.
“We’re going to have to make sure that he’s well taken care of in the training room and that he gets his work in, but Buck always gets his work in and makes sure that he takes care of his body really well,” Baldelli said. “We’ll see what this afternoon holds and tomorrow holds.”
Buxton missed four games from April 14-16 with a mild right hamstring strain, but he started each of the club’s past six games. He has hit safely in 13 of his 15 games played this season and entered Monday with the best slugging percentage (.818) among all MLB players with at least 50 plate appearances.
Buxton is second on the team with six homers and leads all Twins with 12 extra-base hits.
“When his running gait is not ideal or he’s not feeling 100 percent, that was the cause of some of it, and possibly the cause of the hamstring issue, too, that he’s dealt with this year as well,” Baldelli said.
Twins won’t limit Donaldson’s usage
Though the Twins spoke a bit before the season about the potential for limiting Josh Donaldson’s usage early in the season in the interest of maintaining his calf health, the third baseman has appeared in all but one of the Twins’ games since he was activated from the IL on April 14.
Now that the Twins are through their early-season stretch of playing mostly day games in colder weather, Baldelli says that Donaldson’s usage will be similar to that of other players, with the hope that he’ll be able to settle into a rhythm.
“I think we got to the point where he’s going to be in the lineup a lot,” Baldelli said. “We’re just going to put him out there, he’s going play, he’s going to get a ton of at-bats. … I think we should expect to see him out in the lineup going forward and then probably being treated like everybody else here as far as days off.”