Monday, March 23, 2015

Twins Already With Bad Luck Mounting

Mar 17, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins catcher Josmil Pinto (43) prepares to hit in the batting cage before the start of the spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports 
In 2015, the Minnesota Twins have quite a fluid pendulum that can swing in terms of just how their season goes. While there's no doubt the roster is in a much better spot than it was a season ago, things can come crashing down very quickly if the club suffers the wrong breaks. With a ceiling near a wild card berth, the Twins need fortune on their side, and if spring training is any indication, it may not be.

Over the course of the weekend, the Twins held their breath as two integral players in the organization suffered setbacks. First, while playing in a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles, Josmil Pinto was hit on the follow through by three Adam Jones swings. With the bat making contact with the Twins catcher, concussion tests were the next steps taken.

Although nothing has been conclusively decided, both Paul Molitor and GM Terry Ryan have noted that Pinto has "concussion-like" symptoms. Yesterday, Ryan went as far as saying that if this took place during the regular season, Pinto would be placed on the 7-day disabled list for a concussion. If there's a team that understands the seriousness of brain injuries, it's probably the Twins. After the considerable amount of time that players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Sam Fuld missed in recent memory, Pinto's setback has to be a cause for concern.

The backup catcher role was a spot of competition for the Twins this spring. With Pinto working to hold off the likes of Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer, the latest set back doesn't help his cause. Spending time on the shelf early in spring training, Pinto has gotten only 18 plate appearances in seven games for the Twins. On top of that, he has not been behind the plate for all seven of those games, the area where he needs to convince the Twins the most.

At this point, it's fair to start wondering what Molitor, Ryan, and the Twins are forced to do should Pinto miss extended time. Neither Herrmann nor Fryer are ideal major league options, but one of them could be forced into action. Herrmann offers more versatility to the Twins, and is probably the logical choice if Pinto is unable to compete. Should the Twins get Pinto back with a week or so left in spring training, the backup role is probably still his to lose. However, as brain injuries go, that remains a big if.

And then there's the first pitcher injury the Twins have dealt with.

After being shut down less than a year ago due to discomfort in his elbow, Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe is having issues again. The previous shutdown was in regards to a strained Ulnar Collateral Ligament, otherwise known as the unfortunate precursor for Tommy John surgery. While pitching in a spring training game over the weekend, Thorpe was removed from the action due to pain in his left arm once again. The Twins will be sending the Australian pitcher for an MRI, and the bullet that was previously dodged may now hit.

If an MRI deems that Thorpe does in fact have damage to his UCL, he will likely be headed for Tommy John surgery. It would effectively end his 2015 season, and more than likely, the beginning of his 2016 year. Although the surgery has come a long way and pitchers are able to rebound from the setback, the loss of developmental time for a young arm would be potentially damaging.

While it's still extremely early in the 2015 season, the Twins enter the year with a relatively clean bill of health. Having these two potentially serious issues arise could set forth an ugly waterfall effect. For a team that lost both top prospects in Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton a season ago, avoiding the injury bug would be a critical step for the upcoming season. Although the Twins are in a better place than they have been previously, the room for error is slim and injuries could grind positivity to a halt in short order.

As teams around the league have seen top contributors fall off left and right this spring, let's hope that the Twins can navigate both Pinto and Thorpe through a best case scenario. Here's to hoping Minnesota finds themselves staying healthy throughout the 2015 campaign.