Jim Souhan
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Judging by the latest injury updates, Major League Baseball is a perilous odyssey, something like "Lord of the Rings" meets "Raiders of the Lost Ark" meets, well, Homer's Odyssey.

Between the beginning of spring training — which is largely a spa for big-league ballplayers — and the end of their first real game, the Twins lost three key relievers, a prospective starting pitcher, one of their top prospects, perhaps their right fielder and their rising star of a third baseman to injuries.

Those who left Fort Myers injured include standout closer Jhoan Duran, top lefthanded reliever Caleb Thielbar, key middle reliever Justin Topa, rising prospect Brooks Lee and possible fifth starter Anthony DeSclafani.

Royce Lewis started the season opener at Kansas City on Thursday with a home run and a single, then injured his right thigh rounding second base. Max Kepler then fouled a pitch off his right knee, finishing his at-bat but not taking the field again. Both underwent tests on Thursday.

Such injuries conjured the specters of all of the career-altering injuries that have plagued great Twins players and derailed promising seasons, but there were positive developments pertaining to health during the Twins' 4-1 victory over the Royals.

Carlos Correa managed three or more hits four times during the 2023 season. He was slowed by plantar fasciitis, reducing his speed and poisoning his hitting mechanics.

Thursday, Correa got three hits, and on the third he beat out a slow roller for an RBI single in the ninth, running through the bag at full speed and without a hitch or grimace.

While Correa was making his typical outstanding plays in the field and producing two RBI, the other Twins star slowed by injury last year was looking spry as well.

Byron Buxton played in center field for the first time since Aug. 22, 2022. He moved well in the outfield and lashed a line-drive single to left in the seventh inning.

On a day when you could celebrate Pablo López's outstanding pitching, or Brock Stewart and Griffin Jax pitching scoreless innings to fill in for Duran, or Lewis' ability to embrace big moments, there was a moment that should not be forgotten — a moment that could have made the opener a disaster regardless of the final score.

In the bottom of the third, Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. hit a bloop to short center. Correa sprinted with his back to the plate. Left fielder Willi Castro and Buxton converged. At the last moment, the ball fell just out of Correa's reach as Buxton flashed by.

Twins fans' injury paranoia is justified. Perhaps Correa and Buxton avoiding injury on opening day and beyond can provide a modicum of optimism amid the athletic tape and ice baths.

"I just feel healthy," Correa said. "When I'm healthy, I don't think of anything, I'm not trying to compensate. I'm not trying to change my swing. When something doesn't hurt, I'm just being a baseball player, just being an athlete out there and trying to play and be free.

"It just feels good to be healthy. If I'm healthy, I'll take care of the rest."

And there you have the Twins' 2024 team motto.

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Lewis' injury should have meant a call-up for Lee, the Twins' most mature top prospect. He could have filled in at third base and allowed Kyle Farmer and Castro to remain in platoon and utility roles — both started on Thursday to get their righthanded bats in the lineup against Cole Ragans, an excellent lefthanded starter.

Lee's injury means the Twins might call up Austin Martin or José Miranda. Martin has more position flexibility; Miranda played third base in the big leagues.

If Kepler is injured, Matt Wallner likely would become the everyday right fielder instead of the lead left fielder who will be rested against certain lefthanded starters.

The Twins survived major injuries in 2023 by using a deep bench and getting key contributions from minor league call-ups.

They have done this before, which is not to say that they wanted to do it again.

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.