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Royce Lewis rolls on for the Twins and realizes they need him to stay healthy

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Royce Lewis saw the first-pitch sinker and launched it with a powerful swing into the second deck at Target Field, a two-run home run that stretched Minnesota's lead in the sixth inning before the game against Colorado tensed up for a bit.

Whenever Lewis is in the lineup, though, the Twins are always on the verge of cutting it loose.

After smoking that ball off Rockies rookie Angel Chivilli on Wednesday, Lewis stood to admire the 424-foot journey for a second before whipping his head toward the dugout to shout at his teammates in celebration as he began his latest circle around the bases.

He pointed to the relievers in the bullpen as he approached second, crouched down to tap the veins in his forearm on his jog-by slap of hands with third base coach Tommy Watkins and was exuberantly greeted by Carlos Correa after crossing the plate. Then in the dugout, Lewis dabbled in a couple of different dances to complete the show exactly seven years to the date of his selection by the Twins with the first overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft.

Sometimes it's difficult to discern the greater source of enjoyment: Lewis simply being on the field, or the rest of the Twins watching him do his thing.

“Honestly, I feel like at this point, it’s just who I am. I just play the game. I have fun, and I do what I do,” Lewis said, before bringing up his injury history without prompting. “This is what all the teammates and people that are around me, staff here, are telling me, ‘This is what you do. We need you healthy.’ Obviously, I know that. It’s not like I’m choosing to not be. The goal is to just keep fighting to be out there every day and have fun with my teammates.”

Lewis has five homers among his 11 hits, eight runs and eight RBIs in eight games since his return from a severely strained quadriceps. He homered in his first two games back from the injured list, where he landed after getting hurt running the bases on opening day. Lewis, of course, hit a home run in his first at-bat of 2024.

Because of the pandemic and then successive ACL tears in his right knee, plus a strained left hamstring late last season and the injury to his right quad this year, Lewis has played in only 79 games for the Twins entering their game on Thursday against Oakland.

In that equivalent of a half-season, the 25-year-old walking energy drink with a smile as bright as his future has 22 career home runs with 65 RBIs with a sizzling .956 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Last season, he hit a franchise-record four of his five career grand slams and added four homers in six playoff games for the AL Central champions.

Correa, to no surprise, is on a 15-for-36 tear since Lewis returned. That included a career-high five hits on Wednesday.

“When you’ve got Royce hitting behind you, you feel like in one of the at-bats he’s going to hit a home run that day. You’re just trying to get on base,” Correa said. “He’s a special talent, and I’m very glad that he’s back in the lineup.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB