May 22, 2024

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3 takeaways for the Twins: Louie Farland's spot is in jeopardy, Brooks Lee's bad back, and the Corea/Lewis update

3 takeaways for the Twins: Louie Farland's spot is in jeopardy, Brooks Lee's bad back, and the Corea/Lewis update

MINNEAPOLIS — Louie Farland was thrust into the Minnesota Twins' season-opening rotation due to Anthony DeSclafani's spring training elbow injury, and four bad starts could push him back.

Farland barely survived a walk-filled, 39-pitch first inning Sunday against the Detroit Tigers, eventually being removed after 2 2/3 innings and allowing four runs. His final offering was the sixth homer he surrendered in 16 2/3 innings this season, and the loss dropped his record to 0-4 with a 9.18 ERA.

The Twins' record also dropped to 7-13, including 2-6 at Target Field.

Manager Rocco Baldelli subsequently refused to commit to Farland for his next scheduled role in the rotation, saying: “We have a lot of things we should talk about. We have to have almost anything on the table right now to find a way to get better.

In his first three starts, Farland failed to put hitters away with two hits, leaving too many fat pitches over the plate. Sunday was a different and more frustrating story as he threw just 35 of 74 pitches for hits before leaving a mean cutter to Tigers second baseman Buddy Kennedy to send into the left field stands.

“It wasn't the same,” Baldelli said. “Today it wasn't his habit to go out there and play like that. He can throw strikes on command naturally. He can just stand there and throw that fastball and cut where he wants it. When you see a guy going out on an unfamiliar walk, you're going to want to look a little bit and find out What happens.

Options to replace Varland are limited, as a result of the Twins cutting payroll by $30 million and bringing in DeSclafani as the only addition to the offseason rotation. Triple-A right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson, who pitched well in the start against the Tigers on April 13, is the most logical option to replace Farland next weekend on the road against the Los Angeles Angels.

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Woods-Richardson's pitching prospect stock declined during a rough 2023 season in St. Paul, but offseason mechanical adjustments have brought much-needed oomph back to his fastball and he has impressed in spring training. It's hard to imagine Woods-Richardson being any less effective than Farland, and Baldelli noted that the Twins' poor start has left them feeling pressured to make changes.

“I mean there's an urgent need here,” Baldelli said. “We can't play like this and think things are going to be okay. We're going to have to be open to making roster moves and finding new ways to use players and figure out some things.

It's a bad sign that he's already dropped to seventh on the rotation depth chart in April, but an even worse sign is that it's unclear who the next player in line after Woods Richardson will be.

David Festa is the Twins' top prospect, but he has made just seven appearances in Triple-A and has struggled with control this season. Brent Hedrick, Josh Winder and Matt Canterino are on the injured list. Aside from Vista Woods-Richardson, the other healthy members of the Triple-A rotation are 29-year-old Randy Dobnak and 30-year-old Caleb Buechle.

Sometimes, what seems like an obvious weakness and a prominent source of concern for fans, turns out to be exaggerated. Unfortunately for twins, this is not one of those cases. DeSclafani's goal was to buy some time before needing to turn to Varland in the rotation, after which he was supposed to help Varland avoid various “break the glass in an emergency” options.

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Now broken glass is scattered on the floor and it's not even May 1st.

Update my injury

Injuries to third baseman Royce Lewis and shortstop Carlos Correa paved the way for 2022 first-round pick Brooks Lee to make his MLB debut and play a prominent role in the Twins' depleted outfield, but the 23-year-old is a top-50 prospect who has been sidelined since late Spring training due to a back injury.

Lee was removed from the spring training game on March 22 due to what the Twins initially diagnosed as back spasms. After undergoing further testing, he began the Triple-A season on the IL with lower back pain and was said to be out for three to four weeks. That timeline has come and gone, a Twins source said The athlete Lee's back injury is now considered more significant.

Lee was diagnosed with a herniated disc and is being treated by California spine and back specialist Dr. Robert G. Watkins, who has worked with numerous MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams and is perhaps best known in the sports world for New England's performances. Patriots complete back surgery performed by Rob Gronkowski in 2013.

According to a team source familiar with the situation, Lee is approximately three weeks into a two-month rehabilitation plan. There is optimism within the organization that he will be able to resume playing this season, and Lee has impressed the coaching staff and front office by batting .333 with a .962 OPS this spring, but a timetable has not yet been set for his potential return to bullpen action.

More injury updates

Right-hander Max Kepler is about to return to the Twins lineup after spending the past two weeks on the IL with a right knee bruise. He played Triple-A rehab games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, collecting four hits and three walks. Keibler could be activated from the IL on Monday.

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Jhoan Duran is also close to returning from a right oblique strain he suffered in late spring training. He reported no issues after Friday's live batting practice session at Target Field and was cleared to begin his Triple-A rehab assignment on Tuesday. Duran is expected to make several appearances for the Saints.

Twins athletic trainer Nick Paparista described Lewis as “doing well” and “trending in the right direction” in his recovery from a right quadriceps strain he suffered on Opening Day. Lewis has hit the ground running and could start a limited run within a week, but the paparista warned he “still has some boxes to check” before setting a potential timetable for a return.

Correa won't be ready to return from his right intercostal strain when he's eligible to come off the IL on Tuesday, but he's about to resume baseball activities, and according to the paparista, his “symptoms are improving dramatically.” Given the relapse-prone nature of the injury, Correa and the Twins are being somewhat cautious to avoid a months-long absence.

Right-hander Daniel Duarte, who made two starts for the Twins after earning an Opening Day relief job as a non-roster camp invite, will undergo season-ending elbow surgery on May 8. Duarte was acquired via waiver claim in February.

(Louis Farland Photo: Abby Barr/Associated Press)