Twins lose yet another key pitcher to injury before Opening Day

Minnesota’s bullpen situation is quickly thinning out before the season has even started.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

A rough week for the Minnesota Twins started with Derek Falvey announcing key injuries during a television broadcast. On Monday he revealed that Jhoan Duran, Caleb Thielbar, and Anthony DeSclafani would begin the season on the IL, and on Sunday he bookended the week with more bad injury news.

Falvey announced that reliever Justin Topa was dealing with knee inflammation and soreness, something that will delay his regular season debut with the Twins. Star Tribune beat writer Phil Miller said that Topa would start the season on the IL — making him the fourth MLB pitcher to hit the list.

According to Do-Hyoung Park, the Twins are shutting Topa down despite the fact that he said he wanted to try and pitch through the injury. It’s a decision that seems to be for the best, although the grit is certainly appreciated.

It’s yet another massive blow to a bullpen that was rated as one of the league’s best heading into the season.

Twins are dealing with yet another injury concern, this time with Justin Topa

Topa was the main big league return in the Jorge Polanco trade, coming over from the Seattle Mariners alongside Gabriel Gonzalez as centerpieces of the deal. Anthony DeSclafani was also part of that trade but he’s been seen as more of a throw-in than anything else, as his involvement helped free up some money for the Twins to sign Carlos Santana.

Should Topa begin the season on the IL, Minnesota wouldn’t have neither of the big league pieces from the Polanco trade on its Opening Day roster.

It’s a brutal blow on a number of different levels, not the least of which is the Twins being without three key pieces of its bullpen to start the season. Minnesota signed Jesse Chavez on Sunday as a way to add more depth, but the hits just keep coming at a rate that is almost hard to comprehend.

Hits might be coming on the field too, as the combo of Topa, Duran, and Thielbar makes up some of the strongest parts of Minnesota’s bullpen.

With Topa missing time and needs to start the season on the IL, Kody Funderburk might re-enter the conversation as a replacement. He seemed to be in line for work after the Twins lost Duran and Thielbar, but was seemingly edged out when the team signed Chavez.

Having Funderburk up would be nice, but it’s a steep cost. Part of what made injuries to Duran and Thielbar slightly tolerable was the fact that Topa was there to anchor the bullpen. With him now out, the team’s depth is going to be tested right out the gate in ways that hopefully don’t set the tone for the rest of the season.

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