Just seven games into his debut with the Minnesota Twins, with only four hits to show for it, Josh Donaldson found himself sidelined by a strained calf.
After missing exactly half of this pandemic-shortened season, the big-swinging, sure-fielding third baseman was back in the lineup and looked as though he never left.
Donaldson returned from the injured list with two hits and two RBIs for the Twins, who backed José Berríos with three home runs and beat the Chicago White Sox 8-1 on Wednesday night.
“I’ve torn biceps, shoulders, hammys and stuff like that and been able to kind of still play and compensate in different areas for that, but with a calf, that’s the most frustrating part, because you don’t know until it’s fully healthy how to progress,” said Donaldson, the marquee winter addition for the defending AL Central champion Twins on a $92 million contract.
Jake Cave and Miguel Sanó hit solo shots, Eddie Rosario had a two-run homer and Berríos (3-3) pitched six sharp innings for the Twins. Two of Chicago’s four errors directly contributed to Minnesota’s highest score in 19 games.
White Sox starter Reynaldo López (0-2) struggled again, getting only five outs before Donaldson’s two-run double in the second prompted a call to the bullpen. Chicago (22-15) fell one game behind AL Central leader Cleveland (23-14), with Minnesota (22-16) in third place, 1 1/2 games back.
Berríos struck out eight batters, with only three hits allowed and two walks.
“It was a fantastic start from beginning to end from him, something we really needed,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
The Twins stopped a six-game losing streak on Tuesday, directly boosted by the return of starting pitcher Michael Pineda from suspension and center fielder Byron Buxton from a sore shoulder.
“They come to the clubhouse and regroup with us and try to do what we do, have fun and do our work,” Berríos said. "You can see it last night and tonight.”
López has logged just 9 2/3 innings in four turns this season, having missed about a month because of shoulder soreness. He managed to keep the Twins from scoring after loading the bases with no outs in the first, but Cave took him deep in the next inning on a drive that grazed the glove of center fielder Luis Robert as the rookie tried to snag it over the wall in front of the bullpen. With no crowd noise, the first sign the ball was gone came from a Twins reliever who thrust both arms in the air from behind the fence.
López threw 53 pitches.
“Some of his making, some not of his making, and we’re trying to get him back on track,” manager Rick Renteria said, hinting that López’s place in the rotation would be re-evaluated.
The right-hander, speaking through a translator, wasn’t happy about Renteria’s decision.
“I don’t understand the reason he put me out of the game in the second inning. I guess he has a reason,” López said. “I guess he wants the best for our team, but I don’t understand why."
Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven worked his final game as a television analyst for the Twins, who will continue to employ the former curveball specialist and noted ballpark prankster as a special assistant for spring training instruction and various public appearances.
Blyleven, in his 25th year in the booth after spending 11 of his 22 major league seasons with the Twins over two stints, had his uniform number (28) retired by the club in 2011. Justin Morneau has been the analyst most often paired with play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer this year, with fellow former Twins Roy Smalley and Jack Morris also taking turns.
White Sox: Yoán Moncada returned from a three-game absence due to discomfort in the back of his lower left leg. “Our training staff has found a way to try to manage it,” Renteria said.
Twins: Two more regulars left early with new injuries. RF Max Kepler was removed after the second inning with tightness in his groin. 2B Luis Arraez hobbled off after reaching base in the sixth and hurting the knee that bothered him earlier in the season. With regular catcher Mitch Garver out for his 13th straight game because of a strained muscle on his side, backup Alex Avila was scratched before the game began with lower back tightness. Baldelli said none of those injuries were serious.
White Sox: RHP Dylan Cease (4-2, 3.00 ERA) takes the mound Thursday to begin a four-game series at Kansas City. LHP Danny Duffy (2-2, 4.11 ERA) pitches for the Royals.
Twins: After an off day on Thursday, Detroit visits Target Field for a five-game series starting with a doubleheader Friday. RHP Randy Dobnak (5-2, 3.12 ERA) pitches the opener for Minnesota opposite LHP Matthew Boyd (1-4, 7.27). Starters are to be determined for the nightcap, which is a postponement from last weekend at Comerica Park in which the Tigers will be the home team.