MINNEAPOLIS -- Silence blanketed Target Field on Sunday as Cleveland's Josh Naylor flailed in pain after a collision in right field. He was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center Emergency Room, and was later diagnosed with a closed fracture and dislocation of the right ankle. He’ll be evaluated in Cleveland later this week to figure out a timetable for an operation.
Naylor remained in Minnesota on Sunday for pain management and Indians head athletic trainer James Quinlin stayed with him. The two were cleared to head back to Cleveland on Monday morning and Quinlin took Naylor to his apartment before reporting back to Progressive Field.
"You guys have heard me brag about our medical team before," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And just watching their professionalism, because it was hard, I had to walk away a couple times. And then Minnesota’s doctor was so good. Not only was I impressed with our guys, but we were appreciative of the Twins, what they did, too."
A fly ball by Jorge Polanco was coming down in shallow right field in the bottom of the fourth inning of the Indians' 8-2 loss to the Twins. Second baseman Ernie Clement was tracking backwards as right fielder Naylor was charging in. Neither were able to get out of the way and a brutal collision sent Naylor airborne. When he landed, his right foot appeared to have gotten stuck under his body weight in the wrong direction.
Naylor immediately started rolling on the ground, pointed for help and swiped his hand across his throat indicating he was severely injured. Paramedics joined the Indians’ medical staff out in right field and got him immediately in an apparatus that looked like an air cast on his lower right leg.
“We know that there's a fracture [somewhere],” said Indians manager Terry Francona said immediately after Sunday’s game, when the team was waiting to hear more information. “Other than that, he's being evaluated over at the hospital right now. We'll know more, I hope, in a couple hours. We're not even sure if he can travel home with us. We're trying to work through some things. We'll find out more hopefully pretty soon.”
The medical staff spent 12 minutes working on Naylor before he was able to be removed from the field. And up until the point he was taken out of the ballpark, it was clear he was in a lot of pain.
“The way he reacted, it was heartbreaking, man,” Indians backstop René Rivera said. “It’s hard. A guy like him, a nice guy in the clubhouse, really a lot of energy, positivity and seeing him go through that was really tough. You could tell the full dugout was really in shock.”
In the first few minutes after the medical staff got out to Naylor, Clement was just a few feet away, sitting on the grass with his head down. Although he sustained a cut on his chin, his reaction was simply in response to how horrible he felt for being part of the collision. The fly ball appeared to be deep enough for Naylor to make a relatively routine catch. However, Francona said he didn’t think Naylor called Clement off, which led to the crash.
“On the replay, Naylor I think was going to catch it about shoulder height,” Francona said. “He's got to call it because the second baseman, he's going until he hears something. So there's got to be some communication there, and I don't believe there was.”
But still, Clement, who’s played in seven big league games, couldn’t help but feel responsible. Outfielder Harold Ramirez escorted Clement to the dugout as he walked off the field to get checked by the training staff with his hat covering two-thirds of his face to hide his emotion. He went into the dugout and before he even was evaluated, he put his head down on the bench, covering his face as his teammates attempted to console him.
“I was just trying to remind him that it wasn't his fault,” Ramirez said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero, “and trying to help him to come to the dugout to get treated.”
Clement had a cut on his chin, but was able to walk away from the collision without any further damage. After Clement was cleared by the training staff, Naylor was lifted onto a stretcher and put on a cart to remove him from the field. Outfielder Bradley Zimmer came out of the dugout to take center field, allowing Ramirez to take Naylor’s spot in right.
The injury and aftermath were very difficult to watch.
“This is a tough loss,” Ramirez said of Naylor’s injury. “He's a great teammate. He has a lot of energy. As we know, he's very energetic and he's always rooting for us. He's always supporting us.”
The Indians haven’t released any additional details at this time, but we don’t need much clarity on the situation to know that Naylor is not going to be back on the field any time soon. The Indians are close to getting a handful of their key players back from the injured list, but that doesn’t include outfielder Jordan Luplow. So who could be added to the active roster as the fourth outfielder?
Cleveland has Zimmer, Ramirez and Eddie Rosario left as the outfielders on its roster. Even if Franmil Reyes comes back from his internal oblique strain this week, he doesn’t fill the everyday-outfield need. The club will have at least three choices in its Minor League system, including recalling Oscar Mercado after he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, bringing up Daniel Johnson or recalling shortstop Andrés Giménez and moving Amed Rosario back to the outfield.
“We’re all competing, but nobody likes to see that,” Twins starter J.A. Happ said. “Hopefully, he can come out of it, best-case. I don’t know what that would be, but man, I think everybody’s thinking of him.”