At long last, Royce Lewis returns to Twins

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NEW YORK — Royce Lewis endured a long wait to get to this point, the point where he was finally healthy enough to rejoin his teammates.

The last step of his journey took him a little longer than expected.

Lewis had spent the past week in Rochester, New York, rehabbing with the Triple-A Saints. But his itinerary to meet the team in New York City took him first to Detroit before returning him to the Empire State.

“The flight was great, though,” the ever-positive Lewis said.

The third baseman has plenty of reasons to be happy these days after a grueling, mentally challenging rehab process that started back in March and concluded with a six-game rehab assignment that he said “almost felt like spring training.”

Lewis suffered a severe right quadriceps strain while running the bases on Opening Day, forcing him to miss the next 58 games.

“When you love the game as much as I do — because I believe no one loves it more than I do — it’s a blessing to be here,” Lewis said. “I couldn’t imagine another day without it. Any day I’m here, it’s always the best day ever.”

While he always seems to have a smile on his face, his teammates could tell being away from the game over the past two months was wearing on him and provided encouragement when they could.

Center fielder Byron Buxton, no stranger to injuries himself, said he tried to impart to Lewis that “somebody’s always got his back,” while he was going through the rehab process.

“I knew how badly he wanted to play,” Buxton said. “For something like that to happen in the first game, it’s very crushing.”

While his teammates played the first third of the season, Lewis worked hard behind the scenes and exercised as much patience as he possibly could. Though he was eager to return quicker than he did, he said he understood that the best thing for him was to make sure he was 100 percent healthy before returning.

Now, the hope for Lewis and the Twins is to keep him that way. To that point, manager Rocco Baldelli phoned Lewis after he stole a base in his first rehab game to reiterate that objective.

Lewis described it as just playing the game the way he always has, but had an inkling that he might have done something wrong when he returned to the dugout and saw the look on manager Toby Gardenhire’s face, as well as those of his teammates.

Asked if there was any talk of toning it down, Lewis said there has been “talk about playing like Royce Lewis.”

“Royce is going to play like Royce. I’m really excited about that,” Lewis said. “I think that’s why we took some of that extra time and listening to the doctors about getting to full strength, so we could do that kind of thing.”

Edouard Julien optioned

It wasn’t an easy decision, Baldelli said, but optioning second baseman Edouard Julien to Triple-A to make room for Lewis on the roster was the move the Twins had to make as they try to get the infielder back on track.

“You’ve got to do what you know is right for the team but also for the player and I think that this is the right thing for Eddy and he’s going to use this time very well and productively and come back a much better version of himself,” Baldelli said.

Julien has been unable to replicate the success he had last year in his rookie season and Baldelli said their objective both to get his confidence level back at Triple-A while also working on some specific objectives on the technical side of things at the plate.

He was hitting .207 with a .676 OPS at the time of his demotion, a big drop from last season, in which he finished with a .839 OPS.

“He knows he has real adjustments that he’s going to have to make and there’s no better time than now to make those adjustments,” Baldelli said.


Top prospects Walker Jenkins (hamstring) and Brooks Lee (back) have both completed rehab assignments for their respective injuries. Jenkins was activated by Single-A Fort Myers on Tuesday and Brooks Lee has rejoined the St. Paul Saints.

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