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Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco returns from injured list

His return means that Luis Arraez, who had shifted over to second base, will move back to first, where he has seen most of his playing time this season

MLB: Game Two-Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians
Minnesota Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco (11) celebrates his two-run home run in the third inning of the second game of their doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
David Richard / USA Today Sports
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CLEVELAND — Not penciling Jorge Polanco’s name into the lineup, Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said last week, was “very strange.”

After all, over the course of the past three and a half seasons since he took the job, there’s no one whose name he had written into a lineup more often. Through pains and aches, the infielder was always out there, leading the team in games played in two of the last three seasons. The year he didn’t lead the team, 2020, he played in 55 of 60 games.

But Polanco was forced to take a break when tightness in his lower back flared up on June 12. He missed 14 games as a result of it before returning on Tuesday, reinstated from the injured list in between doubleheader games. To make room on the roster for Polanco, the Twins optioned outfielder Mark Contreras to Triple-A.

Polanco took 100 swings on Monday — 50 from each side of the plate and reported feeling good. When he did it again on Wednesday, he said he felt even better.

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So, how hard was being on the injured list for a guy that’s nearly impossible to tear off the field?

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“It wasn’t hard,” Polanco said. “I didn’t want to do it, but I did have to go on the IL. It wasn’t something that I was expecting, but it wasn’t hard. I enjoy watching the guys play.”

His return means that Luis Arraez, who had shifted over to second base, will move back to first, where he has seen most of his playing time this season. That move will subsequently push Alex Kirilloff off the position and into left field.

Trevor Larnach had been primarily manning left field, but he landed on the injured list over the weekend. Tuesday, he underwent a surgery performed by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia to repair his core muscle injury. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said on Monday that they expect his return to play to be around six weeks.

Contreras collects first hit

Contreras may be headed back to the minor leagues but not before collecting his first major league hit during his third short stint with the Twins.

The big moment came on Monday night in the top of the ninth inning — against a position player, no less. Contreras took a pitch from Ernie Clement and sent it into left field. The Twins grabbed the baseball to give to Contreras, which he said he’d probably wind up gifting to his father.

“I couldn’t draw that one up,” Contreras said. “That is not how I imagined it. But it wouldn’t have made sense if it didn’t happen in a funny way like that. That was fun. I was smiling the whole time, throughout the whole at-bat. I’m grateful that I got that one out of the way.”

Smeltzer sets career high

Devin Smeltzer set a new career high with nine strikeouts in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. That, he said, comes down to his eyes starting to “settle back in” after missing almost all of last season and not pitching much in 2020, either.

“I think three of the strikeouts at least today, saw something, gut feeling, shook to a different pitch and ended up executing a punch out,” Smeltzer said.

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What does getting his eyes back mean exactly?

“Seeing swings, guys moving in the box, just seeing what my pitches are doing and what the hitter’s reaction is to it,” he said. “Honestly, that comes with feel and innings and continuing to do it. I think being off the mound for so long they took a pretty big hit. The past few outings I’ve been starting to see things kind of light up and having that strong feeling of, ‘Execute this pitch and you’ll get the swing and miss.’ ”

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