After Two Years Away, Twins' Royce Lewis Is Ready To Go
They’re 1,300 miles apart, so chalk this up to expectations, not eyesight. But as Royce Lewis walked off the field in Scottsdale, Ariz., after capping his MVP performance in the 2019 Arizona Fall League with a championship, he swore he could see Target Field in the distance.
“It felt like things were really coming together for me,” Lewis said.
Things soon came apart, though, and now more than 27 months have sped by without another professional at-bat, much less his long-awaited MLB debut.
As it did for all minor leaguers, Covid-19 robbed Lewis of his 2020 season. The Twins projected a strong year from the 2017 No. 1 overall pick, which might have carried Lewis, who has played just 33 games above High-A, to the cusp of the major leagues.
Surgery to sew up a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee just before spring training wiped out his 2021 season and consigned him to a summer of rehab.
“It’s very emotional for me, obviously, going through all that hard work," said Lewis, still just 22. "Since I was 2 years old, (I was) always playing something. I couldn’t do any of that. For four months, I was in—pretty much it felt like misery.”
That all changed in October, when he was cleared to hit—though not to run the bases or play defense—in a pair of instructional league games. It wasn’t enough to know how many at-bats it will take to recover the power and plate discipline he showed in the AFL, where he hit .353/.411/.565 with three homers while playing the majority of his games at third base.
But it convinced Lewis, still the best athlete in the system, that a year of rehab may benefit his development.
“I was like, ‘Man, I feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger right now.’ It turns out that all that hard work pays off, because now when I face (live pitching), I’m hitting the ball way farther,” Lewis said. “This is the best feeling I’ve had in awhile.”