MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Twins shortstop Royce Lewis will have reconstructive ACL surgery on his right knee for the second year in a row, yet another season-ending setback for the team’s top prospect.
The Twins announced the news before they played Tampa Bay on Friday night. Lewis will have the procedure later this month and need a full year to recover. He was hurt in the game on May 29 in a third-inning collision with the wall while making a tough catch in his first, and perhaps only, appearance in center field.
The injury was initially diagnosed as a bone bruise, but further examination after the swelling subsided revealed a partial tear of the same ligament he tore last year during an offseason workout and had repaired on Feb. 26, 2021.
“It just didn’t make sense to me to try to play on a bum knee,” Lewis said. “I love my teammates and I’d love to be out there as much as I can, but I don’t want to be out there at a halfway percent, thinking about my knee. We’ve got guys that can play all these positions really well and I think it just makes more sense for me to take care of it myself.”
The perpetually upbeat Lewis, who was the first overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, acknowledged the particular discouragement of this bad-luck development.
“It’s just a pause, just another setback, that honestly will push me forward and propel me to greater heights and maybe reach out to other people and other hearts that are struggling with some things,” Lewis said. “It’s just life. People get knocked down all the time. People come back. Just makes the resurrection that much cooler.”
The 23-year-old bravely predicted he’d be back at full strength sometime during the 2023 season.
“I’m not afraid of the surgery, that’s for sure. The first time, I think I definitely was,” he said. “If I told you I wasn’t, I was definitely hiding it. But now I’ve been through it. I feel like it’s something I can definitely challenge.”
Lewis was unable to play in games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled all minor league competition. Just as he was gearing up for 2021, he tore the ACL the first time. Back at full strength for the post-lockout abbreviated spring training, Lewis was summoned for his major league debut on May 6 after Carlos Correa bruised his finger.
Much to the dismay of Twins fans, and probably his teammates, too, Lewis was sent back down to Triple-A St. Paul for regular time at shortstop when Correa returned after an impressive 11-game debut. He batted .308 with four doubles, two homers, five RBIs and five runs in 39 at-bats.
Deciding his bat was too good to pass up and figuring they could use his talent elsewhere, Lewis was called back up 11 days later — only to get hurt again.
“Helping the team win. Whatever we’ve got to do. I’m a baseball player first. I’m not a guy that says, ‘I’m a shortstop,'” Lewis said. “I’d like to play shortstop. I think that’s the position I can be best at, going forward in the future. I’ve said that since day one. I grew up loving Derek Jeter, Correa, all these players who played shortstop. So if you’re going to ask me honestly what your position is, I’d say, ‘Shortstop.’ But I play baseball.”
Lewis would’ve had an extended chance to shine at shortstop, too, because Correa landed on the COVID-19 list soon after and missed seven more games.
“I’m going to give him a lot of credit for what he just did, and I would fully expect him to do it again right now,” said manager Rocco Baldelli, who expressed no regret about using Lewis in center field. “Yes, it’s a full year of time. Yes, that’s a while, and it’s one of those things that it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around that fact that this is going to happen again. But I fully expect him to come back and do exactly what he did this time around.”