Gibson struggles with command in return from IL

Adrianza exits Twins' loss with right oblique strain as injuries mount

September 13th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The dinged-up Twins are limping into what could be a season-defining series against the Indians this weekend at Progressive Field, and even as Minnesota’s roster slowly mends, it needs its significant missing pieces to provide a jolt upon their return.

That didn’t happen Thursday night against the Nationals at Target Field, when returned from the 10-day injured list to complete the Twins’ shorthanded rotation. The right-hander allowed six runs (five earned) as he labored through 4 2/3 innings in Minnesota’s 12-6 loss to Washington that lowered its lead in the American League Central to 3 1/2 games over Cleveland.

“It's hard to ignore [the injuries],” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You can't really forget about it [when] every day you do come to the ballpark and someone happens to go down. Everyone sees it, notices it, acknowledges it and supports the guys that have gotten hurt and are dealing with those things.”

Gibson said on Wednesday that he felt much stronger with his lower half following a 12-day rest between starts to recover as part of his season-long battle with ulcerative colitis, which he hoped would help him normalize his mechanics and put less stress on his upper half.

The benefits of that rest were evident with his velocity in the first inning, when he sat at 94-95 mph with his fastballs after having averaged around 91-92 mph with his heaters in the three starts before his stint on the IL. But Gibson struggled with command, as he issued four walks and matched a season high with two homers allowed.

After allowing an Anthony Rendon solo homer in the first and two runs in the third, Gibson was pulled with two outs in the fifth after an Adam Eaton solo homer and Asdrubal Cabrera RBI triple put Washington ahead, 5-2.

“Physically, I felt a lot better,” Gibson said. “It's a little frustrating, obviously, with the results, with how I felt physically. … Stuff felt really good, and unfortunately, I didn't execute with two outs in the inning. ... I had a chance to get out of a lot of those innings and just didn't do a good enough job to get out.”

In the meantime, the injuries continued to mount. Utility man Ehire Adrianza, who is having a quietly strong season, became the latest Twins contributor to hit the shelf after he appeared to injure himself on a swinging strike and was pulled from the game with a strained right oblique in the second.

Adrianza joined a dizzying list of injured impact players that includes Max Kepler (left shoulder soreness), Marwin Gonzalez (right abdominal/oblique strain), Miguel Sano (back soreness) and Jake Cave (pulled left groin). That’s not to mention the fact that C.J. Cron is still playing through issues with his right thumb, Jorge Polanco is still dealing with a problematic right middle finger and Byron Buxton underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Tuesday.

Adrianza will not travel to Cleveland with the team as he undergoes further testing in Minneapolis. As Baldelli noted, players generally don’t face relatively quick recovery times from oblique injuries.

So, that’s why the Twins were forced to cobble together a defensive alignment that featured emergency Sunday outfield acquisition Ryan LaMarre in center field, while Ronald Torreyes, who joined the team on Tuesday after playing the entire season in the Minor Leagues, manned shortstop for most of the game.

“It's kind of crazy, because I don't think I've seen a situation like this in a long time,” Baldelli said. “We've had multiple periods of time this year where we've been seemingly short on players. You usually don't see it in September because of the expanded rosters and the ability to carry as many players as you can, but that's what we're dealing with.”

Fortunately for Minnesota, the end of this injury malaise appears to be near, as Kepler, Sano and Cave all took swings in the batting cages on Thursday. Sano was potentially available off the bench for the game. Though Baldelli didn’t make a commitment to any of his injured players returning Friday, veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz said that he expects the Twins to have healthy reinforcements available for the series opener in Cleveland.

"We showed that we are here,” said Cruz, who mashed a 460-foot solo homer in the third. “We find we are by the wall, and we push back. [Friday] will be a good example. We all believe in each other, and this is what we are here for.”

Still, the Twins haven't bottomed out because of the injuries. They are 9-6 since Gonzalez last played on Aug. 27, and their 3 1/2-game lead over the Indians entering this weekend’s series is the same as when this stretch of difficult injury luck began.

“We're staying afloat,” Gibson said. “Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we can get healthy and be at full strength going into October.”

“We're getting closer and closer,” Baldelli said. “Internally, we know that. We don't always go into specifics of what that means for each guy, but our guys are feeling better. Each day, they are doing more and more. I'm not sure when we are going to have the entire group back out there playing at the same time. Hopefully, it's a matter of days."