Twins 'pretty broken up' about De León's arm injury

Buxton also exits early with back spasms during loss to Tigers

June 25th, 2023

DETROIT -- Twins reliever José De León exited Saturday night’s game against the Tigers with what appeared to be a serious arm injury sustained while throwing his warmup pitches after the Twins summoned him from the bullpen in the top of the eighth inning.

Though the Twins will wait for De León to undergo MRIs to reveal the extent of the injury, manager Rocco Baldelli said after Minnesota’s 3-2 loss to Detroit at Comerica Park that De León will go to the injured list with what was initially described as right elbow soreness.  also exited the game with back spasms, with the Twins waiting to see the severity of his condition.

“Me, the staff [and] his teammates are pretty broken up about it,” Baldelli said. “It's a very tough day. … He's done really good things this year for himself and our team. Seeing him come off the mound, it's a tough watch for anyone because it becomes emotional.”

De León entered in relief of Emilio Pagán with one on and one out in the eighth. He said he felt a “little funky” sensation in his elbow on his penultimate warmup pitch, and when he threw a full-effort final warmup pitch, he felt what he described as an “electric shock” and immediately dropped his glove, spun off the mound, grabbed at his elbow and sped toward the dugout.

“It felt awful, and my elbow swelled up like crazy,” De León said.

He underwent an X-ray after the game but will still need to undergo an MRI “very soon,” he said. The 30-year-old previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018, and he’s trying to find some optimism in the sense that he said this injury did not feel similar to that UCL sprain at the moment.

The Twins were also dealt another blow in Buxton’s exit after a double-play grounder in the sixth inning, when he noticeably slowed down the first-base line and exited with an aggravation of the back spasms that Baldelli confirmed had been a lingering hindrance to Buxton this season. They will continue to evaluate him.

“[Buxton] tried to swing and see if he could stay in the game,” Baldelli said. “He wasn’t going to be able to stay in the game today. He seems to already be feeling a little bit better right now. We’ll see in the morning just how he’s doing.”

It had already been a long, injury-riddled road back to the Majors for De León, a one-time top starting prospect in the Dodgers’ system who also struggled with a groin strain and a rotator cuff issue in his shoulder while passing through the Rays, Reds, Red Sox and Blue Jays organizations over the past several years before finding a home in the Twins’ bullpen this season.

This year, De León just focused on having fun playing the game and not worrying about his health -- and it started on the highest of notes, when he started the combined perfect game for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Since then, he pitched to a 4.67 ERA in 17 1/3 innings since the Twins called him up on May 16, with 17 strikeouts and five walks.

And in line with that positive mindset, his sole focus is already on attacking his rehab -- whatever that might entail -- with gusto.

“I'm still having fun,” De León said. “I'm still having fun, definitely. These things happen. There's nothing that's going to get that off my face. I think just having a positive mindset through a rehab, I've learned that's probably the best healer.”