Top prospect Lewis (bruised knee) headed to IL after hitting wall

May 30th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the clubhouse before Sunday’s game against the Royals, was giddy. Excited about returning to the Major Leagues for the second time this season, Lewis unpacked his clothes, eagerly awaiting a chance to test his newfound outfield skills in center field.

“I'm more excited to make those plays at the wall, but it's a little more dangerous,” he said before the game.

If only he knew the situation he’d find himself in just a few hours later during Minnesota’s 7-3 win at Target Field.

Three innings into his maiden MLB voyage in center field, Lewis -- the Twins' top prospect and No. 41 overall prospect in the league -- made that exciting but dangerous play, tracking an Emmanuel Rivera fly ball onto the center-field warning track. Lewis jumped and made the leaping catch, but crashed into the wall in the process.

The play left Lewis with a bone bruise in his right knee, and the club will place him on the 10-day injured list on Monday. The Twins will have to wait a few days for the swelling to resolve before it can evaluate further. Lewis did not make the trip with the team to Detroit.

Visibly in pain, Lewis finished the inning and gingerly jogged back to the dugout but did not return in the fourth due to right knee pain. It’s the same knee that Lewis needed surgery on in February 2021 after he tore his ACL in Spring Training.

Sonny Gray, who struck out four and got the win, also left early with right pectoral tightness.

Lewis' injury momentarily halts a plan by the Twins to utilize him across the field. While he’s spent nearly his entire Minor League career at shortstop and played shortstop exclusively when he was called up to replace an injured Carlos Correa, Lewis also played third base, center field and left field in his most recent stint at Triple-A. Sunday’s start at center field, the first of his career in the Majors, was supposed to be the beginning of it.

“He’s very open to it,” manager Rocco Baldelli said pregame about Lewis trying new positions. “Not every player who’s come up, early draft pick, shortstop, is incredibly open-minded about moving around the field. But when your mentality is that you’re here to win and you’re here to contribute and you want to be part of the team and do things -- when you have that kind of mindset, you see guys make that adjustment and they are willing to do it.”

And with Correa entrenched as the everyday shortstop, the latest callup signaled that the Twins saw an opportunity to get Lewis on the field in different situations and not just as a fill-in for an injured player.

Lewis has shown his bat is good enough. In fill-in duty for Correa, he hit .308, and six of his 12 hits were for extra-bases, including two home runs. Upon Correa's return, he was sent back to Triple-A with the objective of learning his way around at third base and in the outfield.

“I took advantage as much as I possibly could,” Lewis said of his first stint with the Twins, “whether it be let me eat more steak and lobster or let me go out and have fun and play and try to do my best obviously. Because if I do good, great, but if not, I'm going back down.”

This time appeared to be different. There was no injured player to fill-in for. He replaced a healthy Jose Miranda on the 26-man roster. And with nine games in eight days coming up, it looked to be the perfect on-ramp to a permanent stay in the big leagues.

Baldelli made it clear. Lewis was going to play… a lot. General manager Derek Falvey echoed that statement pregame.

“I do see a path, as long as he can maintain that flexibility,” Falvey said.

But just as quickly as that promise of a souped-up utility player arose, it quickly crashed to a halt at the center-field wall. Now the question is how long it’ll be before the next opportunity.

“He definitely made a great play right there,” said Nick Gordon, who replaced Lewis in center and, like Lewis, has learned the position on the fly over his two years with the Twins. “It’s just kind of tough in that situation because the wall is there, but you know the ball is there as well. Ten times out of 10, we’re trying to get the ball, definitely. … Praying for Royce, hoping he has nothing wrong and definitely speedy recovery.”