Twins place outfielder Larnach on injured list with muscle strain

Trevor Larnach's diving catch in Arizona, the fourth-inning highlight in which he races more than 100 feet into foul territory and flops onto his stomach while somehow reaching and holding on to Josh Rojas' pop fly, was repeated endlessly around the sport last Sunday, ranking No. 4 on the nightly top 10 plays on ESPN's "SportsCenter."

What those videos didn't show was what happened next to the Twins' left fielder.

"I got up, and after that I started feeling it more and more," Larnach said Saturday. "It never got any better. It just got worse."

"It" is what Larnach describes as "a pretty intense, sharp pain" in the muscles near his groin, a condition that Twins doctors have diagnosed as a core-muscle strain "that has progressively been getting worse and worse," Larnach said. He first noticed a mild version of the pain as far back as three weeks ago, "but it's just been getting worse" since that diving catch.

When the injury reached the point that Larnach could no longer play — or "get out of bed [without] intense pain," he added — the Twins decided to put him on the injured list Saturday morning. Outfielder Mark Contreras was recalled from Class AAA St. Paul to replace him, though it could be a short stay. Jorge Polanco is eligible to be activated from the injured list, which manager Rocco Baldelli said the Twins plan to do on Monday or Tuesday.

Larnach's prognosis is not quite so upbeat. The outfielder will seek a second opinion, and Baldelli suggested that surgery might be necessary.

"For him to acknowledge any injury — he just does not do that very well," Baldelli said. "So for him to mention it in the first place, it's kind of a big deal."

After a strong start to the season, Larnach slumped in June, batting just .127 with two home runs in 19 games. Was the injury partly to blame?

"I'll never use that as an excuse, but I couldn't tell you," Larnach said. "I can just tell you that it's affected how some things feel. [It] affected how I've been moving, specifically running and changing directions. … I just want to know what's going on."

Lineups fluctuate

Gio Urshela went 0-for-4 as the Twins' cleanup hitter on Friday night. So on Saturday …?

No, it's not a punishment, Baldelli said of writing Urshela into the lineup as his No. 9 hitter a day later. "I didn't even know he went 0-fer last night," the manager said.

Still, it's a good illustration of what Baldelli said is "the nature of making lineups. Every day is different."

That's certainly true for a manager who has utilized 69 distinct lineups in the season's first 73 games. In fact, Urshela is the sixth player during Baldelli's four-year tenure as manager to find himself batting fourth and ninth in the starting lineup in the same season, and it's an eclectic group: Luis Arraez, Jake Cave, Willians Astudillo, Marwin Gonzalez and Max Kepler also belong to that club. Kepler batted ninth on Opening Day this year against Mariners Cy Young Award-winning lefthander Robbie Ray, and has batted cleanup 21 times since then.

But none have had that odd juxtaposition on consecutive days, and Urshela is a rare case in which the handedness of the opposing starting pitcher played no role; the Rockies are starting righthanders in all three games of this series.

"A lot of factors [are] at play" in designing a batting order, Baldelli said. "Having [Kyle] Garlick sandwiched between two lefties is part of it. There are a lot of theories about this stuff that conflict, but when you do put one of your righthanded hitters up there, sometimes that will push other righthanded hitters to different spots. That's really what we're talking about" in Urshela's case.

The players don't seem to mind not having everyday lineup spots, he added. "That would've been a lot more of a discussion 15 years ago, where it would have been a very, very noticeable thing," Baldelli said. Now? "Honestly, it's not a very telling thing. It's more about how the lineup works together to get the nine guys in line the way we want them."