Good news for Twins as Kepler back in action

Good news for Twins as Kepler back in action

CLEVELAND -- The Twins received good news for their postseason push and potential American League Wild Card Game appearance, as the injury to right fielder Max Kepler's left hip/lower back was confirmed as minor, and he returned to the lineup against the Indians on Tuesday.

The Twins were hopeful that Kepler could return after Monday's off-day, but he had to get through a pregame workout on Tuesday as a test. He injured himself on Saturday on a throw home during the first inning against the Tigers when he fell awkwardly on his left side; he left the game early and was held out of the lineup on Sunday. There were initial fears that he sustained a minor sprain when he twisted the hip, but it turned out to only be a bruise.

"I talked to the trainers and watched him work out today, and he looked good," manager Paul Molitor said. "We think it's more bruised than any type of pull or anything like that. We feel our risk is relatively nonexistent. He's excited to be back in there, and he should be. I was happy to write his name down."

Kepler, 24, provides a boost for the Twins, as he ranks as one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball. He's tied for 12th in the Majors in Statcast™'s Outs Above Average Metric. The only right fielders who rank higher are Mookie Betts, Jason Heyward and Steven Souza Jr. Kepler also entered Tuesday hitting .244/.315/.430 with 19 homers, 30 doubles and 68 RBIs in 142 games.

Worth noting

• Although Molitor had positive news on Kepler, third baseman Miguel Sano continues to be sidelined by the stress reaction in his left shin and hasn't been running or taking batting practice at Target Field. Sano, who has been out since Aug. 19, has been receiving treatment, but without being able to run or hit, there's virtually no chance he'll return during the regular season; an appearance in the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 3, should the Twins earn a berth, is highly unlikely.

"I haven't heard any news today on Miguel," Molitor said. "When I don't hear things, I assume things haven't changed much."

• With the Twins pushing up Ervin Santana a day to start on Thursday to keep him in line to possibly start the Wild Card Game on Oct. 3, right-hander Kyle Gibson is expected to be pushed back to start Friday's series opener against the Tigers. Gibson, who is 7-2 with a 3.36 ERA over his last 11 starts, will be starting on six days' rest because of Monday's off-day, but he hasn't been throwing bullpen sessions between outings to stay fresh, and said the change doesn't really change his routine.

"I played a good game of long-toss today, and it's a program that I've learned from Ervin and [Bartolo Colon]," Gibson said. "No bullpens, just long-toss to keep your arm strength. I feel pretty good."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.