Sept. 9: Kepler’s MRI didn’t reveal any structural damage, tweets Darren Wolfson of SKOR North 1500. He’s dealing with inflammation in his left shoulder but has seemingly avoided a major injury, which is obviously a sigh relief for the Twins and their fans. There’s still no clear timeline on Kepler’s return to the lineup.
Sept. 8: Max Kepler left the Twins’ 5-2 loss to the Indians today after just one inning, as the outfielder was feeling discomfort in his left shoulder and scapula after an at-bat in the bottom of the first. As MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park described it, “Kepler appeared to swing awkwardly” during the plate appearance, which resulted in a pop-up to Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger. Kepler didn’t return to right field for the top of the second.
This marks the second time in less than a week that the issue has forced Kepler to make an early exit from a game, and these shoulder/scapula problems have been bothering the outfielder for months, as he told Park and other reporters after the game. The injury has become worse in recent days, which Kepler felt could have been due to aggravating his shoulder while making throws. Kepler said the soreness is “concerning,” and will undergo an MRI to investigate the problem on Monday.
Kepler has just four hits over his last 32 plate appearances, so it isn’t surprising to learn that this nagging problem has become a greater issue. For now, he is just listed as day-to-day, joining a number of notable Twins players battling the injury bug. As Park notes, the club is already trying to get by without Nelson Cruz (wrist), Miguel Sano (back), Marwin Gonzalez (oblique), Byron Buxton (shoulder) and Sam Dyson (biceps), not to mention the permanent loss of Michael Pineda for the remainder of the season due to a PED suspension.
If Kepler has to miss time, Minnesota’s outfield depth will consist of regular Eddie Rosario and then a host of second-choice options, such as utilitymen Luis Arraez and Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave, the newly-acquired Ryan LaMarre, and rookies LaMonte Wade Jr. and Ian Miller. On the plus side, the Twins still have a 5.5 game lead over the Indians in the AL Central, though they face the Tribe in Cleveland in a big three-game set next weekend.
Kepler has been in the midst of a breakout season, hitting .252/.337/.522 with 36 homers over 587 PA. The 26-year-old has reached new personal bests in just about every major offensive category, making the five-year, $35MM extension the Twins reached with Kepler in February look like an even cannier investment for the club.