Lewis on IL with 'severe' quad strain; prospect Martin recalled

March 31st, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- It looks like Royce Lewis will miss meaningful time for a fifth consecutive season.

Lewis was placed on the IL on Saturday with what president of baseball operations Derek Falvey described as a “severe” right quad strain he sustained on Opening Day. In a corresponding move, the Twins' No. 15 prospect, Austin Martin, received his first Major League callup to fill the roster spot.

“Maybe I'm too electric for my own good,” Lewis said.

The Twins weren’t able to specify a firm timeline, but what’s known at this point is that Lewis will need at least a month of pure recovery before the Twins re-evaluate him to see how much more recovery time he’ll need before he begins to build back into baseball activity.

From that, it appears that two months would be an estimate at the most optimistic preliminary timeline for Lewis’ return.

“He's a unique healer,” Falvey said. “He seems to come back pretty quickly. He's already feeling better than he felt yesterday and that's his nature. He's very optimistic, and that's the way we want to approach this.”

With Martin recalled from the Minors, Willi Castro and Kyle Farmer could see significant time at third base in Lewis’ absence, as was the case when Lewis missed time last season. Martin, who can play second base and outfield, played left field when he debuted as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 7-1 win over the Royals -- though he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth and didn’t get to hit.

“I'm comfortable on a baseball field,” Martin said. “Doesn't matter what glove I have on my hand, what position I'm at. As long as I'm playing baseball, I'm fine.”

But in the longer term, there’s a decent chance the Twins could give a consistent look at third base to Brooks Lee, MLB Pipeline’s No. 18 overall prospect, who is also sidelined for several weeks to begin the season with a continuation of the back pain that cut short his Spring Training.

Indications are indeed that Lee, coming off a 12-for-36 (.333) spring with a .962 OPS, would have been firmly in consideration for this callup had he been healthy, considering the everyday playing time available. Falvey did not have a specific timeline for Lee’s return -- noting caution to ensure the injury doesn’t recur -- but Lee appears to be on track to be healthy before Lewis.

This marked the fifth time Lewis was placed on the IL as a professional, which, when coupled with the 2020 Minor League season lost to COVID-19, has led to Lewis losing massive chunks of developmental time at or near the MLB level -- not that his performance has suffered in any way when he has been healthy, with Lewis carrying a career wRC+ of 159 in the Majors.

“I wouldn't even call this long,” Lewis said. “The long ones I've dealt with were a year long. Like I said, it's not the knee, so we know it's not surgery. That's important to me.”

He was coming off his first fully healthy, normal spring since 2019 and seemingly poised for stardom -- and perhaps beyond -- in an everyday role this season, until he pulled up with the quad injury sustained while trying to score on a Carlos Correa RBI double on Opening Day.

Lewis knows the drill all too well here, having already rehabbed from two ACL tears to his right knee, an oblique injury and a hamstring injury in the past three years alone. And that’s perhaps the toughest part of all this: As a response to all that, Lewis took care with a new offseason routine to make sure the muscles in his lower half were in a better place.

“He really went into the offseason with a focus on mobility, flexibility,” Falvey said. “We all saw it. Physically, he looked different this spring than maybe he even did last year, and got himself in a great spot. That’s what’s most frustrating to him.”

That involved a lot of plyometric work, Lewis said, focused around building explosive strength, and isometric exercises focused on his tendon health, which left his legs feeling “fresh” and ready to tackle the season. Lewis emphasizes there’s nothing he would -- or could -- have done differently.

Still, the recovery process begins anew.

“I've just come to learn it's part of the game,” Lewis said. “Truly, it's out of your hands. You can't do anything about it. … You work as hard as you can for something to be taken away from you. It's not even in your control.”

“It’s really hard news to get,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You feel terrible for Royce having to deal with this after everything else that he’s gone through.”