Jorge Polanco's sore right ankle hasn't gotten much better since he last played in Thursday's doubleheader in Anaheim, and the Twins hope to have a better sense for his next steps by Monday.
The club is being particularly careful in its evaluation of Polanco because the discomfort is in the same area that has bothered the infielder since 2019, which required two surgeries in two years. The Twins will continue to treat him for now, with the possibility that they'll progress to injections in the area.
"When you look at it and the doctors are kind of deciding what we're really dealing with here, it seems like it's most likely related to the previous [issues]," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "What to do about that and how to treat it? It was a challenging thing to treat previously. A day or two off wasn't something that really helped him."
The difference this time is that the issues that caused pain in Polanco's right ankle were chronic in 2019 and '20, while this appears to be a more acute problem that flared up on a slide in a game against the A's during the Twins' last homestand.
Polanco has played through those challenges in the past, but there's no question that they impacted his play. In the first half of 2019, he hit .312/.368/.514 and started at shortstop in the All-Star Game. That regressed to .273/.341/.447 in the second half, and he struggled even more with a .258/.304/.354 line during the shortened 2020 season as he played through pain.
The issue to his right ankle primarily impacts his left-handed swing. That has traditionally been his more effective side, but he posted a .606 OPS as a lefty last season due to the pain.
What makes this tougher is that Polanco's second surgery last October had him feeling pain-free, which helped him slowly regain confidence in fully using his right ankle in his left-handed swing. He'd rebounded from a slow start with an .825 OPS in May, including five multi-hit games, and the Twins' lineup needs that production right now.
"We're basically starting from the top and trying to work our way down through the situation, basically trying to miss nothing," Baldelli said. "And we're going to try to review everything and just see if we can come up with some sort of answer that's better than what we were able to find in the past, because it was a challenging injury to deal with."
Twins to dial back Astudillo's versatility
Though Willians Astudillo has nominally been a catcher throughout his professional career, you would have been hard-pressed to notice that from his usage early this season -- involving only one appearance behind the plate.
That pendulum is about to swing the other way. After serving as a corner infielder for much of the season, Astudillo will now shift his focus to the backup catcher role after Ben Rortvedt was optioned off the roster on Friday, leaving only Mitch Garver and Astudillo behind the plate.
"You can’t really rely on him as a utility-type, multi-positional type player when he is that backup catcher," Baldelli said. "There are days where he might be catching and we have an issue in the field. A few of those issues he might be the only answer to."
The Twins also have top catching prospect Ryan Jeffers seeing regular time behind the plate with Triple-A St. Paul. Jeffers was optioned at the end of April due to his struggles in a relatively even timeshare with Garver, who has raised his OPS to .737 and has seven homers following a slow start to the season.
Astudillo has given the Twins the luxury of having three catchers on their roster for much of the season, but this will likely shift the onus of versatility more to Luis Arraez, who is in line to see reduced time in the outfield due to Alex Kirilloff's return from the injured list.