FORT MYERS, FLA. – Twins outfielder Max Kepler left Saturday’s 12-5 Grapefruit League loss to Boston after the first inning when his right pinkie finger was stepped on by Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Kepler had just tripled in two runs in the inning, when ByungHo Park followed with a grounder to third. Sandoval collected the ball and tried to tag Kepler, who was diving back to the bag. Sandoval’s last step got Kepler’s finger.
“That’s a tough one when you are going to third base and the ball takes him right to the bag,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Kepler was checked out at third and remained in the game, but he was replaced before the next inning by Robbie Grossman. The Twins didn’t want to take any chances and sent Kepler for X-rays, which were negative. There was a cut and some bleeding, but nothing serious, and Kepler is considered day-to-day.
“We wanted to make sure there wasn’t any kind of fracture going on,” Molitor said.
Timing is everything. A year ago, Kepler might have been more hurt because Sandoval was about 30 pounds heavier.
“Would have been worse last spring,” Molitor joked.
Kepler wasn’t the only Twin that Sandoval pounded Sunday. “Kung Fu Panda” slugged two home runs and had four RBI as Boston eased to a victory. Sandoval is batting .333 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 13 games.
“I think I got my bat speed back,” Sandoval said to Red Sox reporters after the game.
Twins cut eight
The Twins on Saturday sent outfielders Zack Granite and Daniel Palka, infielder Engelb Vielma and catcher Mitch Garver to Class AAA Rochester. They also reassigned infielders Niko Goodrum, Nick Gordon and Leonardo Reginatto and catcher Dan Rohlfing to minor league camp.
The Twins have 48 players left in camp. None of the players sent down was in the mix to win a spot on the roster. Gordon, their first-round pick in 2014, should start the season at Class AA Chattanooga. Garver, believed to be the catcher of the near future, is expected to start at Class AAA Rochester. Rohlfing, in his second stint with the organization, could back up Garver at Rochester or be sent to Chattanooga, where the pitching staff will include several highly thought of prospects.
• Second baseman Brian Dozier, playing in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, was 3-for-3 with a double. He started spring training games 1-for-14 before hitting a home run Friday then breaking out Saturday.
• Center fielder Byron Buxton was charged with his first error of spring training in the sixth when he dropped Brock Holt’s fly ball.
Justin Haley will make his seventh appearance of spring Sunday but only his second start. With three starters in the World Baseball Classic and a fourth, Trevor May, expected to miss the season because of injury, Haley is getting an opportunity to show what he can do. He will face the Red Sox and Drew Pomeranz at Jet Blue Park.
La VELLE E. NEAL III