The latest blow came Monday, when Carlos Correa tested positive for COVID-19 during the Twins’ 7-5 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park. The shortstop will have to join frontline starter Joe Ryan and backup outfielder Gilberto Celestino on the COVID injured list, and the already banged-up Twins roster will have to dig ever deeper to field what will likely be a very different-looking 26-man roster in Canada.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said that Correa started exhibiting symptoms on Sunday and got worse on Monday, with the news coming to light during Minnesota’s series opener against Detroit. Correa is vaccinated against COVID-19, Baldelli said.
“It’s something that every team in the league is dealing with,” Baldelli said. “It does not feel good when it’s your team that’s going through it. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been able to shake it for a little while.”
Having three players down at once with COVID is particularly challenging in light of the Twins’ other injuries and the fact that president of baseball operations Derek Falvey indicated Sunday that the Twins expect to have “a few” players who will be unable to continue on the road trip due to the Canadian government’s regulations barring entry to players who haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s not to mention the fact that the club is currently mired in a stretch of 18 games in 17 days without an off-day.
Correa’s positive test is also particularly ill-timed for the Twins because it comes one day after the injury to Royce Lewis, the club’s No. 1 prospect and Correa’s seemingly Major League-ready backup at shortstop. Lewis had already impressed with a .300/.317/.550 line in a 12-game cameo before suffering a bone bruise to his right knee while making a catch in center field on Sunday. The Twins had been moving him to different positions around both the infield and outfield to find him playing time in the big leagues.
For now, the Twins appear ready to stick with some combination of Jorge Polanco and Nick Gordon at shortstop — though with Celestino sidelined, Gordon is also the club’s primary backup center fielder. If Polanco moves to shortstop — as he did Monday — that would start a ripple effect that would likely slide Luis Arraez to second and fix Jose Miranda at first base.
“We’ve dealt with several wrenches [in the plans] recently, and it feels like when things come, they come in bunches,” Baldelli said. “Honestly, it doesn’t change — you kind of have to be prepared for anything. Nothing should surprise you.”
Here’s a look at all of the recent incidents that have led to this current situation:
Baldelli didn’t make any indication before Monday’s game that either Ryan or Celestino is close to returning from the COVID IL, and in Ryan’s case, the skipper noted that the right-hander will likely need to ramp back up into bullpens and his throwing program before his return, like how Dylan Bundy took time to build back into full participation after his own bout with COVID-19.
The Twins do get one reprieve in the sense that the placement of a third player on the COVID IL gives them the freedom to call up a non-roster player (one not already on the 40-man) to fill Correa’s roster spot. They can later take that replacement player back off the 40-man roster without having to expose him to outright waivers, as is normally required in such situations.
Alex Kirilloff, Mark Contreras and José Godoy are the only healthy 40-man position players in Triple-A St. Paul. Non-roster candidates in Correa’s stead could include infielders Jermaine Palacios and Spencer Steer or outfielders Jake Cave, Derek Fisher or Cole Sturgeon.
“It’s a big loss,” Miranda said of Correa. “He’s one of the main pieces of the team. But we’ve just got to keep going through this in the couple of days we’re not going to have him here. We’re just going to keep playing as a team and do the small things.”