Twins’ Royce Lewis returning from IL, salutes Jeter against Yanks

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NEW YORK — Fresh off the injured list, Minnesota Twins third baseman Royce Lewis was ready to pay special tribute to his debut at Yankee Stadium.

Like many infielders of his generation, Lewis grew up idolizing New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. So to salute the Hall of Famer, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 amateur draft attempted to imitate Jeter’s batting stance for a pitch, his first time Tuesday night.

“Get in his position, do his little arm-up routine,” Lewis described before the game, “and then do a little swing of the bat like him. And then start playing again.”

Of course, when Lewis dug in and raised his right arm like Jeter, home plate umpire Chris Segal stopped play for a moment and charged Lewis with his only available timeout in that plate appearance.

Lewis looked back quickly, then tentatively stepped out of the batter’s box before finally getting back to business and issuing the first of his two walks.

“It was funny,” Lewis said. “I’m not used to that because I don’t think they did that back then. So I was laughing with him and he said, ‘Oh, you didn’t want to do that?’ I’m like, ‘It was just a one-time thing.'”

Lewis also homered in the seventh and made a spectacular defensive play, but the Twins lost 5-1.

“I just had a great day focusing. I tend to do it when the lights are a little brighter,” he said. “I like playing here.”

Minnesota reinstated Lewis from injured reserve Tuesday after a 58-game absence caused by a severe right quadriceps muscle strain. He was back in the starting lineup at third base, hitting fifth against Yankees rookie Luis Gil.

“I grew up loving Derek Jeter, so for me it’s huge. I can’t wait. My first at-bat, I’m going to give him a little shout-out,” Lewis said before the game. “I’m kind of emulating his position as best I can, and just a reminder and a testament to the respect and honor I have for him. He made me a part of who I am today.” hui and the love I have for the game. It’s partly because of him, Torii Hunter, Matt Kemp and some of these other athletes in the game.”

Lewis, who grew up in California and turns 25 on Wednesday, was excited to return with the Twins opening a three-game series in the Bronx. Not only was it the first game of his career against the Yankees, but it was also the first trip of his life to New York.

“Being able to see all the sights and all the feels of the big city, I love it, man. I’m a big fan of New York,” he said. “I’m having a blast, man. It’s been a fun time, with my family here too. So, I’m very open to the concrete jungle, as they call it.”

Lewis still has a perfect 1.000 batting average this season, having homered and singled in his first two at-bats of the season before being injured while running on the bases on March 28 in Kansas City.

He appeared in six rehab games with Triple-A St. Paul, going 4-for-23 (.174) with a double, a walk and eight strikeouts.

“It was difficult, of course. But I’ve been through it before. It wasn’t anything I knew I couldn’t handle. It was just a matter of trying to keep my patience as long as possible because that I was so excited,” Lewis said.

“I feel good. I feel ecstatic,” he exclaimed. “Amazing place to come back to.”

Drafted as a shortstop, Lewis was limited to 71 games with the Twins. He tore the ACL in his right knee while training before the 2021 season and suffered the same injury in 2022, just 12 games into his major league career, when he entered collision with the outfield wall while following a flyball.

Last season, Lewis hit .309 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs in just 58 games, including a franchise record four of his five career grand slams. He added four home runs in six playoff games for the AL Central champions.

“When Royce played in the big leagues, he was one of the best hitters in baseball,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Second baseman Edouard Julien was optioned to Triple-A St. Paul to make room for Lewis on the 26-man roster. Willi Castro started Tuesday night at second, a position he is not particularly familiar with. But the versatile Castro will likely get plenty of time there, Baldelli said.

Julien was hitting .207 with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and 66 strikeouts in 58 games.

“He knows he’s going to have to make some real adjustments,” Baldelli said.

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