MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins lost 7-5 to the Indians on Thursday, but more significantly, it looked like they might have lost their hottest hitter just when they could least afford to do so.
Friday, however, actually brought positive news for designated hitter Nelson Cruz and the Twins, as the slugger was placed on the 10-day injured list with a ruptured extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendon on the outside part of his left wrist, but he said that all of the pain had already subsided and he felt optimistic about a quick recovery.
"The way it feels today is really good -- it's a miracle that it feels like that," Cruz said. "I don't have any pain, so maybe that's what I needed. Just tear that tendon, and we're good."
Cruz felt so good, in fact, that when he arrived at the Twins' clubhouse on Friday, he picked up his bat and was able to take a few swings without issue. He isn't wearing a cast or a brace on the affected area -- a far cry from the scene less than 24 hours ago, when he was in clear discomfort as he was removed from the game after a swing and miss, and was unable to grab anything with his left hand.
The 39-year-old Cruz swung through a 2-1 fastball in the fourth inning from Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger and immediately grimaced in pain. He was examined by manager Rocco Baldelli and assistant athletic trainer Matt Biancuzzo before he was removed from the game, with C.J. Cron taking over as the designated hitter.
But with the Twins potentially "in a good spot" following a night of recovery, Cruz will see a specialist in New York on Monday to receive a second opinion as the Twins decide on a recovery timeline for the slugger, who hoped that he would be OK in the minimum 10 days.
"It's definitely very positive," Baldelli said. "We are still going to give him his time to let this healed and get another opinion on it -- at least one -- and go from there. It's a pretty unusual situation that we all are kind of learning about at the same time."
Even though the tendon is torn, the unique aspect of the injury is that there's actually precedent for baseball players playing through it -- including former American League Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau, who happened to be around Target Field in his capacity as the color commentator for FOX Sports North and was seen in the clubhouse talking to Cruz about the situation.
Morneau said that he similarly ruptured his tendon during the 2012 season and didn't even need a stint on the injured list -- and played through the issue through the end of his career.
"There was instability, but there was no more pain, which was good," Morneau said. "They say if you do that, the other [tendons] start to take over. How long it takes to do that depends on the guy, but [Cruz is] as strong as anybody in baseball, so if anybody's suited to be able to go for it, [it's him]."
The left wrist has been a persistent issue this season for Cruz, who already spent 15 days on the injured list with a left wrist strain in late May after similarly exiting a game due to pain in the area following a swing. MRIs at the time did not reveal any structural damage.
And though Baldelli was cautious to note that different people respond differently to injuries, Morneau felt that his injury, in a strange way, actually proved beneficial for him in resolving pain in the area.
"It was the best it felt all year, after it ruptured," Morneau said. "It hurt every swing before that, and when it ruptured, it felt good."
Cruz entered Thursday's game having hit 13 homers in his previous 15 contests, and owned an otherworldly 1.204 slugging percentage in that stretch. His 16 bombs in the second half lead the Major Leagues by a wide margin and pushed his season homer total to a team-leading 32, the second-highest mark in the AL.
He also led qualified Twins hitters in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage before the injury.