Royce Lewis’ first major league season is over, but it’s hard to tell by looking at him.
The compression sleeve on his right knee was the only hint at the Twins on Friday that the top prospect wasn’t healthy, as his face was smiling perfectly even as he explained he had to have his right knee surgically repaired for the second time in as many years.
“Finally playing again, I had a lot of fun doing it and wasn’t interested in where I played, shooting off the bench, not hitting it. As long as I’m healthy, I have a chance to play,” said Lewis. “And now it’s all over again. Part Two.”
His ACL first ruptured early in 2021 and he underwent surgery to repair it leaving him out all season, having not played at all in 2020 also when the pandemic canceled high school football. He’s back on the field this season, making his MLB debut when Carlos Correa was off the field through injury.
The twins briefly submitted their first overall pick in the 2017 draft to Class AAA St. Paul to gain experience in other positions and had just called him up in midfield on May 29. , hit a wall, injuring his knee, ending his season with 12 major league games and an average of 0.300 strokes.
The 23-year-old likened the impact of a car crash. Lewis said after speaking with mainly quarterbacks like Byron Buxton, he realized he had missed his jump for the catch, which is understandable given that it was his first big league game there.
“All I remember is that I knew I was about to put on a really great play, because only you can tell if I’m about to make it or not,” Lewis said. “…I told all my buddies and even my teammates, ‘The center field is so easy. “… [Now] I’m afraid of the wall.”
Both Lewis and manager Rocco Baldele said they had no regrets about moving him around the field.
“At this point we are trying to win, and he is a really good young player, who can play in midfield. He has the ability — athletic ability, ability to play baseball — he has all the things that are required to play that spot,” Baldeli said. “…that particular play was probably just a very rare unfortunate bizarre incident at that point.”
This knee surgery will be slightly different from Lewis’ first surgery, including strengthening the knee to make it more stable, but his recovery will take about 12 months. Lewis and the twins have not yet decided when and where the surgery will take place, or with which doctor. Lewis will likely stay with the twins following his surgery, which Baldeley said would be beneficial to his mental health, but may end up doing most of his rehab work in Fort Myers, Florida.
Lewis said initial imaging made it look like it was just a bruise in the bone, but second opinions two weeks later revealed the full damage. There was an option to try to play through the injury, but Lewis said he didn’t want to take a place on the roster when he wasn’t 100%, and also wanted to make the smart decision for his long-term future in the league, as a complete tear would require a complete knee reconstruction.
Lewis is confident he will come back from injury, because he has already done it once. Baldeli said his comeback from first tears was “fantastic”. Now that Lewis has fulfilled one ambition of playing in the major leagues, he has even more incentive to keep setting new goals.
“It literally helps me live my best life and my dream,” Lewis said. “…It’s just a pause, just another setback, that will honestly push me forward and push me to higher levels. And maybe even reach other people and other hearts who are struggling with some things.”
“It’s just life. People get hurt all the time. People come back. It just makes the resurrection colder.”
Monument reinforcements should arrive among the novices in time for their next road trip to Seattle.
Sonny Gray is eligible to be removed from the casualty list on Tuesday after recovering from a strain on my right chest. He threw 25-30 pitches to live hitters on Friday, which Baldele said went “smooth,” and is set to start next week with the twins. Joe Ryan has also gone through a good rehab journey now that he’s recovered from COVID-19, doing three one-strokes and four-strokes with St. Paul on Thursday. Baldeley said Ryan will likely start having twins on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Josh Winder began rehab for the Saints’ one-round on Friday as he worked out again from a right shoulder impingement. He has given up three strokes, twice (including Homer) and walked three strokes against Rochester. Baldeli said he may need another rehabilitation trip to fully extend his initial workload.
Bailey Ober is still closed due to a strain on his right thigh and hasn’t started throwing again yet.
Gonzalez starts Saturday
Baldeli said the twins will call up Che Chi Gonzalez to start Saturday’s game. He made three runs in Toronto on June 3, giving up three runs and four hits, including two from Homer. The Twins will need to make some roster moves to make room for him on the active rosters and the 40-man rosters, although they have players willing to go to the 60-day hit list for the latter.
Target Field was forced to evacuate Friday morning after one of its bomb-sniffing dogs picked up something around the loading dock. After combing the building, security found no threat. Baldeli said no one from the squad had come to the field yet, so that didn’t affect the twins’ preparation for that night’s game.