UCL injury can't deter Twins' No. 12 prospect

Miranda homers in 3rd straight PA; Former Twin Cruz talks Classic

March 8th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Austin Martin is so excited, so confident, so glad to be feeling like himself, he says, that even a sprained UCL in his right elbow hasn’t done much to dampen his spirits as he gets ready to take “a few weeks” away from the field to allow the issue to subside.

The Twins assigned both Martin and Michael Helman to Minor League camp on Tuesday, a reflection of Martin’s inability to take the field due to the elbow and Helman’s absence from Grapefruit League action due to the hamstring tightness that has bothered him since the start of camp.

“Little bump in the road,” Martin said. “It's nothing major. It's nothing that really affects my mindset or makes me less optimistic about the season. I'm in a good spot physically and mentally. Unfortunate that this happened when it did, but I'm grateful that it happened when it did because now I just have to rehab and be ready to enjoy a healthy year.”

Martin wasn’t able to offer any specifics about a potential timeline for a return, and he noted that the recovery will depend on how he continues to feel. The Twins’ No. 12 prospect referred to it as a “weird” situation without much pain or discomfort, and he said the issue presented as soreness after his Feb. 27 game against the Red Sox, after which he underwent the MRI that revealed the sprain.

Though the 23-year-old had a tough first full season in the organization (.685 OPS) following his arrival at the 2021 Trade Deadline in the deal that sent José Berríos to Toronto, Martin expressed excitement about a mental reset that led to a much-improved performance following his return from a wrist injury in August -- he hit .268/.382/.375 with Double-A Wichita in September.

Martin built on that with a huge performance in the Arizona Fall League, finishing third among qualified prospects in average (.373) and sixth in on-base percentage (.454) while stealing 10 bases.

“I think [the injury] sucked. Unfortunate, but at the same time it was a blessing because it gave me the chance to sit back and reflect and understand that this is a game and it's time to have fun, man,” Martin said. “I came back just feeling like a different person.”

A different person -- but perhaps more like the person he was before, as he noted he once again emphasized the contact-heavy, on-base-oriented mindset that made him a highly coveted prospect when he was drafted No. 5 overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Miranda continues to mash
Even though ’s right shoulder soreness caused him to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic, he has insisted that he can still hit -- and his bat has still made plenty of noise.

Slotted in at designated hitter during the Twins’ 7-6 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday, Miranda crushed a solo blast in the second inning, his third of the spring. In fact, all three homers came in consecutive plate appearances, including a pair of homers on the road against the Pirates on Sunday.

And it might not be long before Miranda is able to fully participate in spring games on both sides of the ball. The infielder said on the Twins’ radio broadcast that he threw weighted Plyo balls without issue on Tuesday and that he hoped to progress to throwing the baseball in two or three days.

“Yeah, it’s a weird thing -- when I swing right now, I don’t feel it,” Miranda said. “There’s no pain, bothering, anything. Thank God that at least swinging doesn’t bother me.”

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said there’s a “very realistic chance” Miranda will be ready to go for Opening Day, and he noted that even if the 24-year-old’s throwing is still limited, the team could use him at first base. It would be tougher to take Miranda in a bat-only role, as Byron Buxton is also expected to need DH at-bats in April.

Worth noting
Former Twins veteran and Team Dominican Republic arrived at the Lee County Sports Complex on Tuesday as they began their training camp for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Cruz, who played for Minnesota from 2019-21, is the player/general manager of the squad, which will play an exhibition game against the Twins at Hammond Stadium on Thursday.

“It definitely will be a nice experience, something you cannot practice,” Cruz said. “Operations and calling GMs and calling players, definitely a nice experience.”