The Twins announced Monday that they’ve placed righty Michael Pineda (right elbow inflammation) and infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder (hamstring strain) on the 10-day injured list. In a pair of corresponding moves, they’ve reinstated Kenta Maeda and Luis Arraez from the injured list. Center fielder Byron Buxton has not yet been activated, though Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that he traveled with the team to Seattle, which suggests a return is near.
The loss of Pineda is notable on multiple levels. The big righty has been one of the Twins’ few effective starters so far in 2021. He also stands out as one of the more obvious trade candidates on the roster for a disappointing Minnesota club that looks more and more likely to sell veteran pieces as the summer wears on.
Pineda, 32, was terrific for the first two months of the season, pitching to a 2.62 ERA with a 26.7 percent strikeout rate and a 6.8 percent strikeout rate. However, Pineda had one start pushed back this month, and he exited another — his most recent outing — with elbow discomfort after just four innings. He’s followed up that terrific April/May run with a three-start stretch that has seen him total just 11 1/3 innings while yielding 10 runs.
On the whole, Pineda still has plenty respectable numbers. He’s accumulated 56 innings on the year and posted a 3.70 earned run average with a 22.1 percent strikeout rate, a 6.5 percent walk rate and a 38.1 percent ground-ball rate. That type of production would help to bolster just about any rotation in baseball, and given that Pineda is playing out the second season of a two-year, $20MM contract, his salary is manageable enough for the majority of contenders. The Twins may not want to commit to selling just yet, but at 26-39 and 15 games back of the division lead, that’s the likeliest outcome.
Refsnyder, 30, was a pleasant surprise for an injury-ravaged Twins club. The journeyman utilityman signed a minor league deal over the winter but unexpectedly gave the Twins a .321/.371/.500 batting line in 62 trips to the plate before going down with his own injury. He’s taken on a good bit of the workload in center field while Buxton has recovered from a hip flexor strain.
In Maeda and Arraez, the Twins will be getting back a pair who were expected to play significant roles on a division contender. Maeda finished runner-up to Shane Bieber in last summer’s Cy Young voting, but he hasn’t looked right at all this season.
In nine starts before landing on the injured list with a groin injury, he pitched to a 5.27 ERA that was nearly double last season’s 2.70 mark. Maeda’s strikeout rate plummeted from 32.3 percent last year to 20.5 percent in 2021, while his walk rate has jumped from four percent to 5.8 percent. Most problematically, he’s given up home runs at the highest rate of his career (1.90 HR/9). Time will tell whether the stay on the IL can get the righty back on track.
Arraez, meanwhile, got out to a blistering start but saw his bat go ice-cold for several weeks before injuring his shoulder on a slide into second base. The versatile Arraez hit .331/.390/.429 with more walks than strikeouts in 487 plate appearances from 2019-20, but that output has slipped to .278/.358/.333 so far in 2021.