MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins would obviously like Byron Buxton to return to a place where he’s healthy enough to take the lead and play center field every day. He’s just not there yet as he works his knee at full strength – but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute to this team’s winning games.
It’s why manager Rocco Baldelli and the Twins have consistently shuffled around for full rest and recuperation days for their superstar center fielder this month – and why they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Buxton is still taking advantage of the opportunities he has to contribute — and he did it again with his 11th homer of the season in Minnesota’s 3-1 win over the Guardians at Target Field on Sunday.
“For me, as long as I can play and come out to contribute and help the team, that’s what I’m willing to do,” Buxton said. “Some days are better than others, but that’s baseball. It’s your body.
Sometimes that means Buxton will be sidelined completely and unavailable on the bench, as was the case in the Twins’ 3-2 loss to the Guardians in 10 innings on Saturday. He was also sidelined for five innings of Thursday’s replay of the suspended game on Wednesday amid both right knee and mild hip tightness he suffered while running for goals the previous Saturday.
Buxton understands why all of this is happening and accepts it, as he said after Sunday’s game.
“We have a process, a process where I stay on the pitch, trying to play 100 games,” Buxton said. “So anyway, who knows? But that’s what we have, a plan here, and that’s what we’re going to stick to. Everything else, apart from that, doesn’t really matter to us. It’s all about winning. »
That’s not to say Buxton is happy not to be in games, obviously. He’s a fierce competitor who wants to be out there with his teammates. Think back to September 2019, when he couldn’t swing due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but still tried to get through five games as a pinched runner and defensive backup to help the Twins in their push into the playoffs before finally undergoing season-ending surgery.
Baldelli noted that he would get pushbacks and slight exaggerations from Buxton as the center fielder tried to talk to each other on the field on those days – and while not swayed by such considerations, c is what he wants to see.
“[He’s] not always happy when I talk to him about it and we keep him out of training,” Baldelli said. “He honestly wants to play every day. That’s his mentality and I love that mentality. I want our guys to want to play and be there. I’d rather rip a guy off the pitch than have to push him down the pitch All the time.
Here, however, is the reality of the situation: Baldelli and Buxton have both indicated that the pain in his right knee that first arose during a feet-first slide in Boston on April 15 is still something he must manage. At the same time, it’s clearly something that doesn’t prevent it from being effective, and it doesn’t seem like something that’s going to resolve itself in a few days with some rest.
So instead of having Buxton unavailable at all on the injured reserve or pushing him too hard on a repaired knee and risking losing him any longer, the Twins are carefully navigating a middle ground. Baldelli says the coaching staff, coaching staff and medical staff are working with Buxton to determine those schedules on a series-by-series basis.
And even after appearing in just 16 of the Twins’ 29 games since that game at Fenway Park, Buxton’s 369-foot homer against Triston McKenzie on Sunday still brought him within one of the MLB leads held by Aaron Judge. .
It’s their plan, and they’re going to stick with it until he’s healed and can be full throttle again. And both sides are looking forward to that day.
“The reality is that he’s dealing with something and he’s still dealing with it,” Baldelli said. “And it’s better, I think, but it’s not going to be immediate. There is no quick fix here.
“You have to listen to your body, and that’s something I’m starting to do a bit more of, which has allowed me to stay on the court longer,” Buxton said. “So just trust the process and keep doing what we’re doing.”