Saints Transaction Report with Toby Gardenhire (2024)

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ST. PAUL– The Saints return to CHS Field this week for a six-game homestand with the Syracuse Mets, after a two-week road trip in upstate New York.

Over those two weeks, many players were shuffled through the Saints roster, and there are some new and returning faces in the clubhouse as they return home. Toby Gardenhire was available ahead of the opener Tuesday night (though it was eventually postponed), and provided updates on all the transactions over the last two weeks.

May 19, Will Holland activated from the 7-day IL, hamstring strain
Holland had gone down running the bases on Apr. 25, in a game against the Rochester Red Wings. He’d been out for nearly four weeks, until the conclusion of the Saints' last homestand against the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Holland has played in 10 games for the Saints all over the diamond since being activated, and has seen some mixed results. He’s 6-32 (.187), with two home runs, six RBIs, and three walks. But the small-sample struggle isn’t a concern for Gardenhire.

“Will, he can do a lot of things, he can run, he can play good defense and he’s been swinging bat and he isn’t chasing bad pitches,” said Gardenhire.

May 21, Adam Plutko assigned to St. Paul
The Twins signed Plutko on May 3 out of the KBO, where he had been pitching the last two seasons. Plutko’s 2024 season was delayed due to a hip injury, which kept him in Ft. Myers for a few weeks to rebuild his strength.

Plutko has made three starts for the Saints since his arrival, throwing 7 ⅓ innings, and posting a 3.68 ERA with six strikeouts and a walk.

“He’s doing great for coming back from surgery," Gardenhire said. "He’s still building back up right now, but his last outing he was really good, so if we can keep building off of that we’re going to be great."

May 25, Royce Lewis Sent on Rehab Assignment with St. Paul (Activated June 4)
Every Twins fan who could did their part to keep up with Lewis and his rehab assignment with the Saints in Buffalo and Rochester. In his first game since Mar. 29, Royce Lewis led off with a single and stole a base.

The stolen base was a frustrating action by Lewis to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and the front office, as they wanted to prevent further injury. Lewis would go on to play in six games on his rehab assignment, playing half his games at third base and the other half at DH.

While his results at the plate weren’t encouraging (he went 4-23), he still showed signs of being healthy and having star upside--no surprise to the Twins or Twins fans.

“He's healthy. He’s been all over the place making plays, and he had a few really good swings at the plate," said Gardenhire. "I was talking to Rocco yesterday. He’s one of those guys who will hit a home run in his first at-bat no matter what he does in the Minor Leagues. He’s a limelight guy, so he’ll be fine.”

Hey, he was almost right about that! Two at-bats off.

May 27, Kody Funderburk optioned to St. Paul, Jay Jackson outrighted to St. Paul
Two relievers who have spent a significant amount of time in the Twins bullpen this season joined the Saints as they arrived in Rochester last Monday. Funderburk was optioned to the Saints for the second time this year, and Jackson cleared waivers, remaining in the Twins organization.

Both have pitched at least one game since joining the Saints. Funderburk has had two scoreless outings, while Jackson gave up a run

“They’re both really good guys. They just want to work and get a chance to get back up to the big leagues, so that’s what they’re doing," said the duo's new boss. "[Funderburk] threw the ball really well the other day. [Jackson]’s been good, too, so I think both those guys will be big for us here."

May 27, Josh Winder activated from rehab assignment, optioned to Saints
Winder spent a month rehabbing between the Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels and Saints before being activated by them on May 27. He was recovering from shoulder inflammation on the right side.Hitters were still taking advantage of Winder’s ailing shoulder when he began his rehab assignment in Ft. Myers. Still, he eventually came into a good groove with the Saints, firing three straight scoreless outings from May 21-28. His last outing on May 31 wasn’t as sharp, as Winder surrendered three runs on two hits and two walks in only one inning of work.

Despite his last outing, Gardenhire says he’s on an upward trajectory from where his season started.

“He’s coming back from some stuff, and he’s working through the rehab process, it was kind of slow going getting him back to where he needs to be. But he looked really good for a few outings out there, and hopefully, we can keep that going, because when he’s throwing hard and his slider is working good, he’s dominant."

May 28, Jeff Brigham Activated from Injured List
Brigham was on the Saints' Opening Day roster, expecting to be one of the secret weapons out of their bullpen. As he was working a second inning against the Nashville Sounds on Apr. 4, he felt something go wrong in his side, and two days later, Brigham was shut down with a left oblique strain.

Nearly two months later, Brigham was activated and returned to the Saints bullpen on May 28. He made his first appearance the next day against the Red Wings. He was flawless in his first outing throwing a perfect inning. His next time out three days later wasn’t as sharp, as Brigham let in three runs on three walks in the bottom of the fifth.

The control issues are something Brigham will address this week, but Gardenhire sees there will still be much better to come as he returns to his routine.

“Brigham has great stuff. He’s a really good pitcher, and I have high expectations of him that he’ll turn around and be really good for us. We’re still building him in slow; you’re not going to see him out there for three innings. But we’re going to get him in there and let him keep building."

May 28, Caleb Baragar, Placed on 7-Day IL with a Right Hip Strain
Another recent signing by the Twins organization, Baragar was signed away from the Lancaster Stormers out of the Atlantic League. The former Cleveland Guardian has made two starts with the Saints so far, but he only threw three innings in his second start on May 24 after allowing four runs on five hits and three walks.

Four days later, he was diagnosed with a right hip strain. There is no clear timeframe on when Baragar will return from his injury according to Gardenhire, but it will be still some time before he’s back.

“He was doing okay, he came out of that start a little sore. We worked through some stuff and decided to put him on the IL but as far as I know, he’s doing pretty good with it,” said Gardenhire.

May 29, DaShawn Keirsey Jr., Placed on 7-Day IL with a Left Calf Strain
The injury to Keirsey Jr. is one of the most devastating to the Saints roster this last week. Keirsey Jr. last played on May 26 and went 2-4 with a two-run home run and a stolen base. The next day, something did not feel right in his left calf, and he remained on the bench.

Three days after he last played, the Saints placed Keirsey Jr. on the IL with the strain, and he is now wearing a boot on his left leg to promote healing. This is a massive setback for the Saints' team leader in many offensive categories (including batting average (.302), on-base percentage (.390), OPS (.928), stolen bases (16), and hits (55)).

His absence leaves a bigger hole in the outfield, as Matt Wallner now remains the only outfielder on the Saints active roster. Gardenhire didn’t know the severity of the strain in medical terms, but if it’s anything more than a grade one, it could take anywhere from three to six weeks to recover.

“Hopefully it’s not as long, you just never know. It’s all about how he progresses with everything. He is doing exercise and stuff every day, he wants to get back, so I know he’s going to work hard to do it. So we’ll see how it goes and let it progress."

June 2, Jair Camargo sent on Rehab Assignment with Ft. Myers
It’s been a month since Twins fans were able to see Camargo out on the field with the Saints, as he went down on May 1 with a right forearm strain. Camargo began his rehab assignment in Florida over the previous weekend.

He’s 3-11 so far in his three rehab games, hitting .272 with a double and an RBI. Gardenhire said he could still be playing in a few more games with the Mighty Mussels before returning to the Saints lineup, and wouldn’t count on his return before the homestand against Syracuse is over.

“Not sure if we’ll see him at all this week, but my guess would be either this week or next week, all depending on how everything goes. He’s been playing in those games down there, we’ve been watching him and he looks like he’s doing a good job so hopefully we’ll get him back up here soon.”

Jun. 3, Edouard Julien optioned by the Twins
It wasn’t official until Tuesday, but almost everyone and their mother knew Julien would be returning to St. Paul ahead of Lewis’s official activation from the injured list.

Julien looked as though he was finally exiting his month-long slump with the Twins this past week, going 4-13 (.307), but he had yet to cut down on his strikeouts, as he leads all of Major League Baseball with strikeouts looking (34).

Gardenhire and the Saints coaching staff are fully aware of what Julien is capable of at the plate and know he just needs a reset to cut down on his strikeouts and regain his confidence in Triple-A.

“I think everybody knows Eddie can hit. We saw him do it at the big-league level last year, and we saw it down in the minor leagues for a long time. Sometimes, players just need a little bit of a breather from everything up there, they struggle a little bit, and the pressure starts to mount a little bit. Sometimes it’s good for these players to get down here and just get out and play every day, and that’s what we’re hoping for him here.”

Jun. 4, Yoyner Fajardo traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations
Prior to Tuesday’s scheduled game, the Saints traded away one of their outfielders, Yoyner Fajardo, to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for cash considerations. Fajardo had spent the majority of his professional career in the Pirates system before he was claimed off waivers by the Twins on Dec. 7, 2022, and assigned to Double-A.

Fajardo has been assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis, and will join former Twin Gilberto Celestino in their outfield. While Fajardo’s overall numbers didn’t flash off his stat page, he did provide the Saints with two walk-off wins this season and saw significant growth in his own development according to Gardy.

“We all love him here. He had a great year last year in Double-A, he came up here and was doing a good job. He just ran into a numbers thing where we just have a bunch of guys who need to play and that just happens sometimes. But I wish him nothing but the best because he’s an awesome dude, awesome teammate and just a really good person,” Gardenhire said.

Jun. 4, Brooks Lee activated from the injured list
The long wait is over for Twins fans and the Saints coaching staff. Brooks Lee is back from the injured list and healed from his herniated disk surgery.

His presence does crowd up the Saints infield more, making him the eighth infielder they officially have on the roster. But he is expected to get full playing time across the infield and it’s a welcome sight for Gardenhire.

“I’m really happy for him that he’s here," Gardenhire said. "He just wants to play so just having him back up here even though I haven’t seen him play or do anything yet. I’m excited to have him back on the field and watch Brooks Lee play. I know what he’s capable of, he’s a good ball player and leader in this clubhouse."

In total, the Saints have had 13 transactions over the last two weeks, and the shuffling around of players has their roster revamped for this homestand. The Saints currently have a 25-31 record on the season and are 14 out of 20 teams in the International League.

But talent still abounds, with players such as Austin Martin, Wallner, Julien, Lee, and Michael Helman at the top of their lineup and Louie Varland, David Festa, and Randy Dobnak atop of their rotation. They are set up well to turn things around for the start of the summer and bring themselves back into contention for the Triple-A playoffs.

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