Twins temporarily lose another reliever before start of season

FORT MYERS, FLA. — The Twins bullpen, already missing Jhoan Duran and Caleb Thielbar to start the season, will be without its top offseason addition, too.

Justin Topa, a righthanded setup man acquired from Seattle in the Jorge Polanco trade, has a sore left knee, the team announced Sunday, and will be put on the injured list.

"He wanted to pitch through it, but the more we looked at it, [we decided] to get some treatment on it and slow him down to knock it out. We don't want tendinitis to track through the year," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations. "We're going to knock it out now, give him some downtime and ultimately build back up."

The team's hope is that Topa, who apparently suffered the injury while backing up a play at home plate during his last outing March 15, will miss only two weeks of the season. Still, it leaves the Twins' late-inning corps missing three key members.

"Yeah, I've thought about it a good amount," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We're going to have to answer some questions that we haven't had to answer in a while."

Brock Stewart and Griffin Jax figure to provide some of those answers, but the Twins will need other pitchers to step up. Jay Jackson and Steven Okert, themselves new to the Twins' bullpen, will get more late-inning assignments.

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Thielbar's absence likely means that rookie lefthander Kody Funderburk will make the team, but Falvey and Baldelli said final roster decisions haven't been made.

"Some of the conversations might actually take place in Kansas City," where the Twins open the season Thursday, Baldelli said. "There are no guarantees that everything will be wrapped up while we're in Fort Myers."

In part, that's because the Twins are closely following the waiver wire and opt-out decisions, watching for potential fits for their own roster.

"We have guys in camp who we think can do some of this, certainly fill some of these roles," Falvey said. "But it never hurts when you're down a few [players] to keep an eye on how to add to your depth. We'd be doing that even if we weren't dealing with some injuries."

The injuries also could be filled by some of their remaining nonroster players, with righthander Daniel Duarte, who was claimed off waivers from Texas last month, a leading candidate.

"Danny's done everything you could have asked of him. He's done a really nice job throwing the ball over the plate," Falvey said. "He's figured out how to use his secondary pitches in the zone when he needs to. That's really encouraging."

So is Thielbar's progress from a left hamstring strain, Falvey said. The veteran lefthander threw a bullpen session Sunday, keeping his arm strong while his leg heals.


* Chris Paddack, whose first start of the season likely won't come until the Twins visit Milwaukee on April 2-3, will remain in Florida when the team departs Tuesday, in order to pitch once more to prepare.

* Byron Buxton, who hasn't appeared in a Grapefruit League game outside Fort Myers since February 2022, is in the lineup for the Twins' game against the Atlanta Braves on Monday in North Port, Fla.