CINCINNATI — In the midst of feeling the best he has in a month, Carlos Correa felt a pop in his left heel Monday night.
Correa has played through plenty of pain since being diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in May. But he admits Monday’s sensation was stronger than his previous pain and he quickly removed himself from the game.
While he didn’t make immediate declarations after the Twins fell 7-3 to the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark, Correa conceded he’s open to resting his heel in the immediate future.
Though the Twins still haven’t clinched the American League Central, Correa wants to be at his best when the playoffs begin on October 3. With the Twins’ magic number reduced to five courtesy of the Kansas City Royals’ comeback win over the Cleveland Guardians, resting now could be the best course of action for Correa — though he wants to first see how he feels after waking up on Tuesday.
“I felt like a small little tweak there in the heel,” Correa said. “It just got painful, real painful after that. Obviously, I’ve been trying to manage this for a while now. Some days after better than others. … (We have to meet) and see what’s best for me heading down the stretch and going into the postseason.”
With the exception of occasionally missing two games in a row, the pain hasn’t prevented Correa from being in the lineup. Since returning from the injury on May 26, Correa’s appeared in 91 of the Twins’ 100 games. He entered Monday’s contest as the team leader with innings played in the field — 243 1/3 more innings than the next highest Twins player.
If he had been headed for free agency, Correa said last month he would have rested more by this point. But in the first season of a $200-million, six-year deal and playing for a contender, Correa is instead relying on treatment.
Teammates describe his efforts with words like grit and toughness, applauding Correa for refusing to sit as the Twins pulled away from Cleveland after the All-Star break.
“He’s been grinding through that and making some unbelievable plays,” Twins pitcher Joe Ryan said. “He’s swinging it, too.”
After a few days off last week, Correa was on an upswing, or so he thought. Correa noticed Monday he could put more weight on his heels when he hit in the batting cage, which resulted in a good hitting session.
“I was running,” Correa said. “I was shuffling around. I was moving really well.”
He moved so well, that Correa thinks he forgot about his heel once the game began. As he traveled to shallow left field to track down T.J. Friedl’s first-inning popout, Correa no longer forgot about his heel.
“Almost like a little pop in my heel,” Correa said. “It didn’t feel good at all. It was tough for me to move around. Even walking, I felt like there was a knife on my heel. Obviously, for me to come out in the first inning, it’s got to take a lot. It was very painful.”
Now, Correa and the Twins need to determine the shortstop’s next step. Correa is pushing through pain to this point because he, the team’s medical staff and other doctors determined the only way to truly heal would be to sit for several months.
Regular treatment is allowing Correa to play most of the team’s games each week. His offensive production is suffering to an extent as Correa’s OPS-plus of 94 entering Monday is the lowest of his career short of the Covid-shortened 2020 season.
But the Twins are benefitting from Correa’s leadership, his sure-handed defense and — even at a tick below league average — his presence in the batting order.
“Whether he’s swinging it or not, he’s the leader,” hitting coach David Popkins said. “He’s not making excuses. He’s just going in and playing every day and giving it everything he’s got and emptying the tank.”
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But now the Twins must consider if Correa would benefit from a few additional days out of the lineup. With a huge lead over the Guardians and Detroit Tigers, the Twins could give Correa extra time to heal. As he returned from two days off on Friday, Correa conceded the Twins are in a good position to allow him to rest, recover and repair before the playoffs.
Yet as easy as the decision seems, Correa insists on exhausting every option.
“We have to see how I wake up,” Correa said. “Then we have to make some decisions as a team. We have to meet with (athletic trainer Nick Paparesta) and obviously (manager Rocco Baldelli) when we get back, and see what’s best for me heading down the stretch and going into the postseason. At the same time, I keep pushing through this, it’s not going to get any better. I’m not going to get any better. I’m not going to move any better. Maybe some rest and just show up and play meaningful games will probably be best. But at the same time, we haven’t clinched yet and we don’t have a spot in the postseason just yet cemented. We have to figure out a way to get that done and then we can make those decisions.”
The Twins designated outfielder Jordan Luplow for assignment before Monday’s game to make room on the active roster for Michael A. Taylor, who was activated off the injured list. On the IL since Sept. 3, the Twins were beyond thorough, making sure Taylor’s sore hamstring was healthy. Taylor demonstrated against the Reds how good he felt when he robbed Will Benson of a home run. While Luplow hit left-handed pitching well, the team needs at least one and perhaps several spots on the 40-man roster. To be activated this season, pitchers Brock Stewart, Chris Paddack and Jorge Alcála all would need to be transferred off the 60-day IL. … Baldelli’s wife, Allie, gave birth to “Twins” boys named Nino and Enzo on Sunday night.
(Top photo: Jesse Johnson / USA Today)