SEATTLE — Elliot Soto could have been a Twin years ago.
He almost was.
The now 32-year-old infielder, a longtime minor leaguer, was drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 2007 draft. He opted for college instead and was selected by the Cubs in the 15th round of the 2010 draft.
“At first, I wanted to sign right away and then after thinking about it, talking to some people, I just decided that college was going to be a better route for me,” Soto said. “But yeah, it was pretty close.”
On Sunday, Soto finally got news that the team that first drafted him had selected his contact after a long-winding road that saw him play in five other organizations. Soto received the news in the Saints’ clubhouse and then scrambled to get his stuff together to catch the team charter shortly after.
The veteran was added to the 40-man roster ahead of the series against the Seattle Mariners — starter Cole Sands was optioned to Triple-A and reliever Cody Stashak was transferred to the 60-day injured list — where he might finally get his chance to debut with the Twins.
Soto was hitting .213 with a .658 OPS when he got the call. Both Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco are dealing with minor injuries, necessitating some additional infield depth. The call up is the second of his career — he briefly played for the Los Angeles Angels for three games in 2020. That time around, nobody was in the stands because of COVID-19.
This time, after many thoughts of potentially never making it — and then thoughts of never making it back — his wife and two young children flew to Seattle to watch him.
“I think you hang around long enough, some things can happen and that’s what happened to me,” Soto said. “I hung around and I got a little luck on my side. I was able to get there but … the thing that was not so good about that was I couldn’t have any of my family or anything the first time around. Now, they’re here.”
Manager Rocco Baldelli said Soto gives the Twins “good protection,” at shortstop with Polanco dealing with a tight back and Gordon a troublesome hamstring. As for what kind of opportunity he might have — the Twins will need a 40-man roster spot to welcome back Joe Ryan from the COVID-19 injured list on Tuesday — Baldelli said “how the game plays out will tell us if he’s going to play.”
“He knew what it took to get here the first time, and it took a lot. … It’s taken a lot again, and he’s still at it,” Baldelli said. “It says more about what kind of person you are to get to this point to do it the way he has done it.”
Byron Buxton’s recent tear has landed him American League Player of the Week honors for the second time in his career.
Buxton went 7 for 21 (.333) with five home runs — including multi-homer games on consecutive days — and drove in seven runs while slugging 1.095 over his last six games. Buxton last earned the honor in August 2017 and is the first Twin to win the award since Nelson Cruz did so in July 2020.
“He’s a player of the week kind of guy,” Baldelli said. “I’m not surprised based on what we’ve just seen. He’s been very, very impressive.”
Ryan is expected to come off the COVID-19 injured list and make his first start since May 21 on Tuesday in Seattle. Sonny Gray is expected to come off the injured list to start the series finale in Seattle. Gray has been out with a right pectoral strain. … Kyle Garlick (hamstring) is scheduled to rehab with the Saints on Wednesday and Thursday. Baldelli said his rehab stint could stretch on longer than that. … Josh Winder (shoulder), who has already thrown in one rehab game, is slated to throw in another on Thursday.