Twins' Max Kepler, Emilio Pagan, More Out vs. Blue Jays Due to Vaccination Status

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 3, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 23: Max Kepler #26 of the Minnesota Twins advances to first base on a walk against the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning at Target Field on May 23, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Tigers 5-4. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

Outfielder Max Kepler and reliever Emilio Pagan are among the four Minnesota Twins players who will miss this weekend's series in Toronto versus the Blue Jays because they aren't eligible to enter Canada under the country's COVID-19 regulations.

The Canadian government has more stringent entry guidelines than the U.S., as it requires people entering the country to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the Associated Press, relievers Caleb Thielbar and Trevor Megill will also miss the three games in Toronto.

All four players were placed on the restricted list and will be eligible to play when the Twins return to the United States to start a home series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday.

Kepler, 29, has been one of the Twins' best hitters this season. He is slashing .253/.357/.429 and is tied for second on the team with six home runs and 25 RBI.

The Germany-born Kepler is Minnesota's regular starter in right field and made his MLB debut with the Twins in 2015.

His best season occurred in 2019 when he hit .252 with a career-high 36 home runs and 90 RBI.

The 31-year-old Pagan is in his first season with the Twins after coming over in a trade from the San Diego Padres.

Pagan has split closer duties with Jhoan Duran and leads the team with seven saves in 10 chances. He is 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 22 strikeouts over 18 innings.

During his six-year MLB career, Pagan has pitched for the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Padres and Twins. He set a career high with 20 saves in 2019 with Tampa.

Pagan said of his decision to not get vaccinated against COVID-19:

"I know that there are going to be people that are very angry for this opinion and the stance, but that's fine. I feel like I had a choice to make, and they have also a choice if they're going to be mad at me or not. ...

"I've gone to every guy in this locker room and explained where I was, and how I came up with my decision, and apologized because I do know it's hurting the team. I do not believe this is a baseball decision. This is the Canadian government. It's not even an MLB rule."

Duran will likely fill in as the full-time closer in Toronto, while outfielders Trevor Larnach and Kyle Garlick could see additional playing time in place of Kepler.

Minnesota's bullpen depth will be tested as well with both Thielbar and Megill unable to pitch.

Thielbar is 1-0 with a 5.59 ERA over 22 appearances, while Megill is 1-1 with a 1.04 ERA in five outings.

At 30-23, the Twins hold a 4.5-game lead over the Cleveland Guardians for first place in the American League Central.