MILWAUKEE -- Jorge Polanco started at shortstop and batted fifth for the Twins in his season debut on Monday night at Miller Park. After a breakout 2017 campaign, which included 13 homers and 74 RBIs, Polanco was hit with an 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in March.
With the Twins sitting at 35-45 through their first 80 games, Minnesota reinstated Polanco on Monday.
"It was very difficult," Polanco said, "But I'm glad that I'm back, and I'm glad that I'm going to be able to play baseball, which is what I love to do."
Polanco went 8-for-19 with a triple and a home run over six rehab games at Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Triple-A Rochester leading up to Monday's debut. He was also dealing with an infected right middle finger that he said he got caught in an apartment door in Fort Myers, Fla. Through the rehab stint and the injury, the 24-year-old said he just wanted to make it back to the Majors when the suspension was lifted.
"All I wanted to do was come back," Polanco said. "Obviously, sitting at home and not being with my teammates was a difficult process, but that's while I was away and I'm here now."
The switch-hitting Polanco batted fifth in only seven of his 133 games in 2017, but manager Paul Molitor said he plans on moving him around as he moves back into the lineup.
"With the 20-game stretch here, I'm trying to find a break for a couple of guys," Molitor said. "I could hit him in a lot of options. I don't think I'm going to be in too much of a hurry to get him too high, too fast. We'll see ... He hasn't played Major League competition for a long time."
Buxton optioned to Triple-A
The Twins returned outfielder Byron Buxton from his rehab assignment, reinstated him from the 10-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Rochester on Monday.
Buxton played in 11 games for the Red Wings while rehabbing a hairline fracture in his left big toe, an injury he originally sustained while on a rehab assignment (migraines) with Fort Myers on April 22. Buxton has missed a total of 51 games this season due to injuries.
"We didn't put a timeline on Buxton from Day One when we decided to put him on a rehab, which was the right thing," Molitor said. "The move that was made to option him out was kind of just furthering that point that it's not, 'OK, well this calendar date comes, your time is up.' And he knows that."
In his first game since being sent down, Buxton homered, walked and struck out twice.
The former second-overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft appeared in 140 games and hit .253 last season.
The Twins recalled right-handed pitcher Zack Littell from Rochester, and he is set to join the bullpen Monday. Littell, who will be making his second stint with the Twins this season, has gone 1-3 with a 3.00 ERA (51 IP, 17 ER) over nine games (eight starts) for the Red Wings.
To make room for Polanco and Littell on the 25-man roster, the Twins optioned left-handed pitcher Adalberto Mejía to Rochester and placed infielder Ehire Adrianza on the 10-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Mejía made just one start for the Twins, tossing four innings Saturday against the Cubs.
Concerning Adrianza, Molitor said: "There were at least a handful of times over the last couple weeks where I had to check if he was going to be OK to go, and he kept saying he could go. The hard part -- I think for him -- is that he knows he's swinging the bat well and contributing. The whole idea of where we're at and Polanco coming back, I'm sure he wanted to continue to have the opportunity to play through it."
To make room for Polanco on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated Ryan LaMarre for assignment. LaMarre appeared in 43 games for the Twins this season hitting .263 (26-for-99) with five doubles and eight RBIs.
"I really enjoy having Ryan LaMarre around the team," Molitor said. "He's just energy, he's unselfish. He's always willing to try to learn more to become better. He's a great teammate. Sometimes that's the way it goes."