The injuries just keep on coming for the Minnesota Twins.
In March, the club lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Last week, reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer sat out with a heel injury that threatened to land him on the disabled list.
And just today, the Twins placed shortstop J.J. Hardy on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion. Hardy initially sustained the injury sliding into third base on a triple a week ago.
The move is retroactive to May 4, meaning that Hardy can be rejoin the big league club next Thursday in Boston for the finale of a two-game set against the Red Sox.
Hardy was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last fall for outfielder Carlos Gomez who—ironically enough—also landed on the disabled list today with a with a left rotator cuff strain.
Prior to the injury Hardy—a notoriously streaky hitter—was off to a less than impressive start at the plate. Through the season’s first 25 games Hardy posted an uninspiring .250/.299/.400 batting line to go with three home runs, eleven RBI, and four doubles.
In essence, the time off could do Hardy some good as it largely believed he’s been pressing at the plate in an effort to prove that his dreadful 2009 was an aberration.
To fill in for the injured Hardy, the club recalled infielder Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester.
Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk said it best…
“…the Twins have added to their amazing collection of banjo-hitting utility infielders by calling up Matt Tolbert from Triple-A. Tolbert is anything but deserving after hitting .232 with a .632 OPS and six errors in 27 games at Triple-A, but he's a poor man's Nick Punto and so naturally Ron Gardenhire loves him.”
The move is nothing if not disconcerting.
As Gleeman mentions, the club is already stock-piled with prototypical “small ball” style players in Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla.
The club could have used this opportunity to call up the supposed third baseman of the future, Danny Valencia or bring Luke Hughes back for a second go-around with the big club, but neither is doing anything overly inspiring at Rochester.
Additionally, Valencia and Hughes are both third basemen by trade, although Hughes has spent plenty of time at second base as of late, but neither of those positions appear to be open with the big club.
The Twins appear content to leave Nick Punto at third base—his best defensive position, according to UZR—and Orlando Hudson isn’t going to suit up anywhere but second base.
That leaves current Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe as the most logical player to call up in this situation.
Plouffe, 24, is off to a solid start with the Red Wings hitting .278/.344/.452 with two home runs, thirteen RBI, and eight doubles through 29 games.
The Twins, however, appear to be playing favorites and going with one of manager Ron Gardenhire’s favorites, the “scrappy” Matt Tolbert.
Tolbert will likely split time with Alexi Casilla who isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his paltry .261/.292/.304 batting line.
To their credit, UZR rates both Casilla and Tolbert are above average defenders at shortstop, albeit in very small sample sizes.
The Casilla/Tolbert combo isn’t an ideal solution for the Twins, especially with the division rival Chicago White Sox in town and a weekend series with the world champion New York Yankees looming on the horizon, but the duo should serve as an adequate defensive stopgap until Hardy returns next week.