Twins announced today that outfielder Gilberto Celestino has ruptured the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, as relayed by Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com. Celestino underwent surgery and is looking at a recovery period of six to eight weeks.
Celestino, 24, got his first extended taste of the majors last year, getting into 122 games for the Twins. He wasn’t able to contribute much on the offensive side of things, as he hit just a pair of home runs in 347 plate appearances. He did walk at a healthy 9.2% rate but his .238/.313/.302 batting line amounted to an 82 wRC+, indicating he was 18% below the league average hitter.
He is considered a strong defender and the metrics seemed to back that up last year. He played all three outfield spots but more in center than the corners. His work up the middle led to two Defensive Runs Saved, three Outs Above Average and a 0.3 mark from Ultimate Zone Rating. That kind of competent center field defense held value for a club that has the frequently-injured Byron Buxton as its primary option at the position.
However, the Twins pushed Celestino down the depth chart this offseason by acquiring Michael A. Taylor. One of the best defensive outfielders in the game, he figures to be Buxton’s primary backup in center. The club also has a pile of corner outfield options, including Joey Gallo, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Nick Gordon, Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner.
Given all of those options, Celestino was a long shot to make the club’s Opening Day roster. But considering the way a mountain of injuries sunk the team in 2022, any blow to the club’s depth is at least mildly concerning.
Once Celestino is healed, he will likely require a rehab assignment to get into game shape. Depending on how the club feels about his prognosis, it’s possible that he could be placed on the 60-day injured list in the coming weeks. Players are eligible to be moved to the 60-day IL now but the clock doesn’t start counting down until Opening Day, which is March 30. If the club doesn’t expect Celestino back to game readiness by the end of May, they could use his roster spot on a waiver claim, a signing or for adding a non-roster invitee.
For Celestino, he still has one option year remaining. Even once he is healthy, it’s possible he’ll stick in the minors, depending on what else is happening with the big league club. That could make this a make-or-break year for him, which makes this setback an unfortunate development for him on a personal level.