Max Kepler to have MRI after being hit in elbow; Byron Buxton making progress

MINNEAPOLIS — Already without center fielder Byron Buxton because of a bruised right wrist, the Twins lost Max Kepler in the fifth inning of Tuesday night’s 9-4 victory over Tampa Bay after he was hit in the right elbow by a 95-mile-per-hour Hunter Wood fastball.

The Twins were leading 7-0 when Kepler was hit by the pitch and had to leave the game with what the team announced was a bruised right elbow. Jake Cave pinch ran for Kepler and then replaced him in center field. Kepler, normally the Twins’ right fielder, has been seeing regular duty in center with Buxton out.

“Max came out of it OK,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was a little scary. Obviously, hit him pretty squarely. He’s got some swelling but it looks like we’re going to be OK. It’s in a spot that probably maybe looks a little worse than it is. Obviously, he’s going to be uncomfortable for a little while and have to work through this, but the initial testing came back with nothing overly serious. We’re going to probably keep monitoring him. He’s going to have some imaging done (Wednesday) just to make sure he’s OK and we’ll see here.”

Kepler will have an MRI on Wednesday after undergoing X-rays on Tuesday.

Buxton also was injured when he was hit by a pitch on June 14 against Kansas City. He was placed on the injured list on June 18th and was eligible to return on Tuesday. That did not happen and Baldelli said Buxton hit in the cage on Tuesday.

“Yeah, it went well,” Baldelli said. “It was the best session that he’s had so far so we’ve been hitting like I said before every other day. At the very beginning, it was probably every third day. What we’re going to do is come back (Wednesday) and hit back-to-back days and see how he’s doing tomorrow so overall it was a good session.”

As for whether Buxton will be sent on a short rehab assignment, Baldelli said before Tuesday’s game that remains a possibility.

“The longer these things go, the more likely the odds just go up for needing to go out and get some at-bats,” Baldelli said. “Depending on the injury, there are certain injuries where you go out there — everything can change. But there are certain times you say to the player, let’s go out and play a couple of games, get seven or eight plate appearances, and then we’ll see you in two days.”