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Not again: Twins’ Josh Donaldson makes early exit from opener because of hamstring injury

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Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a two-run home run during a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Twins’ blown lead in a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Brewers on Thursday in Milwaukee was only part of the bad news on Opening Day for Rocco Baldelli’s team.

The Twins also lost third baseman Josh Donaldson in the top of the first inning when he injured his right hamstring while running to second base for a one-out double. Donaldson, who was batting second in the order, was replaced by Luis Arraez in the bottom of the first. Arraez was scheduled to start in left field, but was moved to third before ever playing in the field. Jake Cave took over in left.

Baldelli told reporters that the Twins will evaluate Donaldson’s injury during their off day on Friday, adding that it does not appear to relate to the calf problems that sidelined Donaldson for much of last season.

Donaldson, 35, appeared in only 28 of the Twins’ 60 games in 2020 and also missed both playoff games against Houston because of calf issues. He was sidelined for substantial time in 2017 and 2018 and last year tweeted that he had torn “both of my calves a total of seven times in two years.”

The Twins signed Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million free agent before last season after he played in 155 games with Atlanta, hitting 259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 94 RBIs in 2019. That earned him NL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Donaldson was the American League MVP in 2015 with Toronto.

Donaldson said in spring training this year that he had changed how he runs in order to protect his calves. It’s unclear how long Donaldson might have to sit out this time because of the hamstring injury but it certainly isn’t the start he was hoping for in his second season in Minnesota.

The Twins’ options include having Arraez, who the team hopes to use as its super-utility player, start at third base. Miguel Sano, who moved from third to first base after Donaldson was signed, played some third in spring training and also could be moved back to that spot at times.

If Donaldson is placed on the injured list, he could be replaced by outfielder Brent Rooker. Rooker did not make the Twins’ 26-man roster to open the season but  is traveling with the team as a member of the five-man taxi squad. Rooker played 58 games at first base during his time in the Twins’ minor league system but hasn’t played the position above Double-A.