With Correa healthy, Twins use workout to test readiness of Lewis, Buxton

October 3rd, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- Monday’s workout day was no mere formality and tune-up for the Twins; it was a very significant final chance for them to evaluate the health of their three franchise cornerstones -- , and -- as they make their final roster decisions for the American League Wild Card Series.

Here’s where things stand: Correa is in; Lewis looks somewhere between questionable and likely; and Buxton appears less likely to be on the roster when it’s announced at 10 a.m. CT on Tuesday -- though the Twins will make those calls as late as possible ahead of that deadline.

“I've been able to do pretty much everything,” Correa said. “Ground balls, hit, some live at-bats, run, I've been doing everything. I feel good.”

Correa's was always the case with least uncertainty, though, with he and the Twins having maintained all along that he’d be ready for the postseason. With Lewis and Buxton, Monday could have proven more significant.

Entering Monday, all indications were that Lewis had been trending well in his workouts at Target Field while the Twins played their final series of the regular season in Colorado. But Lewis sounded less convicted on Monday when he said he still had not run at 100 percent, calling that “too tough,” and said even being available as a DH would be a “big step.”

“Unfortunately, it's been very maintained,” Lewis said. “Progressively, a little bit better each day, but it's not significant to where I’ve got a big smile on my face like I know secretly I'm going to be locked in and balling out. We'll see where we're at.”

But more importantly, Lewis said his swinging feels fine, and he looked the part as he took normal batting practice on the field and took limited-range grounders at third base with the rest of the infielders during the workout. If he can also run, even a limited fashion, it’s tough to imagine the Twins leaving Lewis off their roster, considering his importance to all they do.

And if Lewis just keeps hitting homers -- he had six in 18 games in September before the injury -- he doesn’t need to run hard, anyway.

“That would be great,” Lewis said. “I've thought of Kirk Gibson a few times. Maybe that would be like a pinch-hit opportunity. Hopefully, I'm good enough to make the lineup, the roster and we'll go from there.”

In the unlikely case that Lewis is at third base, that would be the best-case scenario for the club’s defensive alignment; if he’s at DH, the Twins can make do with Edouard Julien at second base and Jorge Polanco at third, which would have seemed like a more dicey proposition weeks ago, before they both showed improvement at those spots.

“Obviously, [Lewis has] been great all year long,” Correa said. “Every time he’s in the lineup, he’s a game-changer. So, he’s been putting in the work, he’s been going out there and looks really good. So, yeah, I’m very optimistic.”

“I'd love to be out there, but I also don't want to be a hindrance to this team at all,” Lewis said. “This team is rolling. I just want to be a part of it anyway. If I'm a cheerleader, that'd be great. If I'm hitting homers, that'd also be great.”

Buxton presents even more of a question, and entering Monday, it appeared much less likely that he would be on the roster, considering he hasn’t played in a Major League game since Aug. 1 and has only had 14 plate appearances in the Minors since then.

He was hitting in the indoor batting cage during the workout, but he was not on the field with the other outfielders or for batting practice -- which could have been telling, considering his defensive availability was as big a question as any.

“I think in the context of Byron, it's just very different, right?” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “He's been down for an extended period of time. … At this stage, that decision is going to be made a little bit more broadly around, kind of, readiness, how it fits on a roster, what it looks like, ultimately for us, going into tomorrow.”

That might spell bad news for Buxton.

Especially with Lewis likely limited defensively, Buxton would have to show the Twins that he could play the outfield, which he has not done in the Majors this year. Adding him to the roster would likely necessitate the removal of Andrew Stevenson, who has already demonstrated value as a defensive and baserunning replacement.