MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins placed catcher Mitch Garver and center fielder Byron Buxton on the 10-day injured list before Thursday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Target Field.
Garver going on the injured list did not come as a surprise. He left the Twins’ 9-3 loss to the Brewers in the sixth inning on Wednesday after going down to one knee and showing discomfort as he swung and missed at strike three from Milwaukee starter Brett Anderson. Garver’s injury is listed as a low-grade right intercostal strain. The Buxton move was a surprise, although he did leave Wednesday’s game for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. Buxton, who is no stranger to the injured list, is dealing with left shoulder inflammation, according to the Twins.
The Twins selected the contract of catcher Ryan Jeffers to replace Garver, instead of calling up Willians Astudillo from the team’s alternate training site in St. Paul. Jeffers, a second-round draft choice in 2018, spent time at Single-A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola last season and was part of the Twins’ summer camp when the team resumed workouts following the pause caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Ranked as the Twins’ No. 6 prospect by MLB.com entering this season, Jeffers hit .296 with 33 doubles, 21 homers and 82 RBIs in 167 games over his first two minor league seasons.
“(Garver) had a swing late in the game, kind of felt some tightness on his right side,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations. “We just wanted to make sure we got a good look at it this morning. It’s a very mild strain in the intercostal area, in the rib cage. He feels OK but I think he would’ve been down for at least a few days while we kind of worked it through and get that calmed down. You don’t want that to get worse. So he’s gonna shut it down for a period of time.”
The Twins also recalled outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. and righthanded pitcher Zack Littell from St. Paul and optioned lefthander Lewis Thorpe to the alternate training camp. Littell was optioned on Wednesday to make room for Rich Hill to start against the Brewers, but Hill’s struggles forced Thorpe to throw four innings in the game.
Buxton, who injured his left foot during summer camp at Target Field, is slashing .221/.225/.456 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 21 games. He had his average up to .298 after the last road trip but was 1-for-21 with only two RBIs in the first six games of this home stand. Garver, coming off a season in which he hit 31 home runs, has struggled since the season began. He is slashing .154/.262/.212 with one home run and two RBIs in 17 games.
Veteran Alex Avila, in his first season with the Twins, will share the catching duties with Jeffers. Jeffers was set to make his big-league debut on Thursday night.
“Ryan has continued to grow and develop as a young catcher,” Falvey said. “Had we been at a more traditional setting I would fully expected him to be playing in Double-A, Triple-A this year. So we felt he was close. We were very attentive to keeping him over here at summer camp and spending some time with our pitchers because we knew that after his experience in Fort Myers, getting to know some of those guys, making sure that he got to see all those guys during summer camp, we felt like he’s really progressed. Really advanced. He’s doing a great job over there at CHS Field (in St. Paul).”
As far as the decision not to promote Astudillo, Falvey said: “Willians is still certainly in our mix and will be a part of the conversation and can play multiple positions. But we felt like Ryan was the best fit for the more regular role today.”
Buxton and Garver were added to an injury list that includes third baseman Josh Donaldson (right calf strain, missed 17 games) and pitchers Homer Bailey (right biceps tendinitis, missed 20 games) and Cody Stashak (lower back inflammation, missed seven games). Second baseman Luis Arraez isn’t on the injured list but missed a second consecutive game Thursday because of soreness in his left knee.