In his first start back from the injured list, Tyler Mahle lasted only two innings before leaving last night’s game due to inflammation in his right shoulder. As a result, Mahle has been returned to the 15-day IL, with left-hander Jovani Moran recalled from Triple-A. Moran was only optioned to Triple-A yesterday as the corresponding move for Mahle’s activation.
Shoulder inflammation was responsible for Mahle’s previous IL stint, and he also missed three weeks in July due to a right shoulder strain. Since July 3, Mahle has appeared in only six games and tossed 28 1/3 innings, with his last four starts coming with Minnesota after being acquired by the Reds at the trade deadline.
The Twins hoped that Mahle would be a big boost to the rotation down the stretch, and he did at least contribute a 2.51 ERA over his first three outings in a Minnesota uniform (with the Twins winning all three of those games). However, given the recurring nature of his shoulder problems, it is fair to wonder if Mahle’s season could be in jeopardy.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park) yesterday that Mahle was slated to undergo more examinations today, and implied that another IL stint was forthcoming, “What that means going forward? No one knows the answer to that yet. I’m not closing the book on him, this season, pitching for us,” Baldelli said.
As Park noted, Mahle’s start yesterday bore several similarities to the August 17 start that preceded his last IL visit. In both outings, Mahle’s velocity was down, and he threw only 37 pitches. The difference was that on August 17, Mahle still managed to hold the Royals scoreless in 2 1/3 innings, whereas the White Sox scored four runs in Mahle’s two innings yesterday en route to a 13-0 Chicago victory.
That loss dropped the Twins to 6-9 over their last 15 games. Despite a losing record (37-43) since the start of June, Minnesota remains only one game back of the Guardians for the AL Central lead, with the White Sox a game behind in third place. The division title may be the Twins’ best path to the postseason, as the Twins have fallen five games back of the last wild card berth.
Getting to the playoffs will be more difficult without Mahle, who is now the 17th player on the Twins’ extensive injured list. This list includes several notable regulars (i.e. Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Ryan Jeffers, Trevor Larnach) who are tentatively expected to return in September, but the Twins can hardly afford to be without such key personnel for so long.
Sonny Gray is also a question mark after leaving his start on Friday due to hamstring tightness, as Baldelli said Gray would have to throw a bullpen session and pass other tests before being allowed to make his next start. Gray is tentatively slated to start for Minnesota on Wednesday against the Yankees, but if he can’t pitch, that leaves the rotation even more short-handed.