The Minnesota Twins outfielder has ramped up his rehab process and expects to be in the lineup for a potential American League Division Series matchup.
The Twins’ right fielder has been out of the lineup since Sept. 14 with inflammation in his back and shoulder area but was able to make a pinch-running appearance in Minnesota’s victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. After taking batting practice and some fielding before Tuesday’s victory over the Detroit Tigers, MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park reported that Kepler expects to be back in the lineup by the American League Divisional Series “by the latest.”
Kepler has been a breakout star for the Twins this season after a dismal 2018 season. His bounce-back has included a career-high 36 home runs, which still ranks second on the team behind Nelson Cruz and his 90 RBI ranks third on the team behind Cruz and Eddie Rosario. Mix in his ability to be a plus defender in right field and having him in a potential matchup with the New York Yankees or Houston Astros from the jump would be a huge boost to the club.
The bigger question here is how the Twins will choose to handle Kepler in the final week of the season. With the Twins’ magic number down to two entering Wednesday’s game in Detroit, Kepler told Park that he would like to get some at-bats before the regular season concludes Sunday in Kansas City. At the same time, the Twins don’t want to risk a set back during a meaningless that could knock him out for the postseason.
If Kepler continues to progress, the Twins may opt to get him a couple of at-bats in Kansas City just to get him a look at live pitching. If all goes well, Kepler should re-take his place at the top of the lineup for the Bomba Squad.