MINNEAPOLIS — Yes, Byron Buxton feared the worst when he hurt his left foot while tracking a fly ball on Monday, July 13. Yes, he said to himself, “Here we go again.”
It was the same reaction Twins fans had when they checked social media to learn their starting center had been taken off the field on a cart and sent straight to the doctors.
And just like Twins fans, Buxton didn’t feel better until he knew the results of tests on his sprained foot.
“That’s probably when I kind of eased my mind a little bit and took that step back,” he said Wednesday. “Like I said, it puts your mind at ease knowing it’s nothing serious and it’s something that obviously I’ll work on enough to get back this year. I’m not going to miss part of the season, so I’m very happy about that.”
So are fans who have seen Buxton over the past five seasons, usually just long enough to get them excited before he gets hurt and misses a string of games.
Since being first called to the majors in 2015, Buxton, 26, has played just one full season, 140 games in 2017, and been on the disabled list for thumb, wrist, toe and groin injuries, as well as migraines and a concussion.
He was having his best season at the plate last year, hitting .262 with 10 homers and 30 doubles before injuring his left shoulder chasing a triple in a 5-4 loss at Miami on Aug. 1.
He has season-ending surgery to repair his labrum and had been back on a field for little more than a week when he was hurt on Monday.
Buxton was chasing a fly ball by teammate Nelson Cruz when it got caught in the wind and forced him to change course. He fell on the grass in front of the warning track, and the ball dropped for a double. The official diagnosis was a mid-foot sprain.
“I got ready to make that cut (and) felt a small little pop, and definitely it was one of those things that didn’t feel right — kind of sharp pain immediately,” he said. “Got a little numb, I guess. But it kind of just freaked me out.”
And everyone in Twins Territory.
Arguably baseball’s best defensive outfielder — he won a Platinum Glove and was named Wilson’s defensive player of the year in 2017 — he also has a rare combination of elite speed and above-average power.
Buxton did not take part in Wednesday night’s intrasquad game and has been limited to walking in a pool so far this week. Still, he said he will be ready to play by Opening Day against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 23.
“I’m playing,” he said. “I ain’t worried about that. I’ll be there.”
The Twins tried Wednesday to create what will be the atmosphere of a regular-season game in this abbreviated season, pitting two full rosters against one another while piping in ambient crowd noise and running the scoreboard and PA system.
The game was streamed live on the team’s website, as well.
Miguel Sano was cleared for workouts after spending the previous two weeks in quarantine. He and teammate Willians Astudillo were among the 61 major leaguers who registered positive for COVID-19 during intake testing before training started July 3. Quarantined players need consecutive negative tests before being activated. Astudillo remains in quarantine.
Kenta Maeda and Devin Smeltzer were Wednesday’s starters, and 2016 first-round draft pick Alex Kirilloff and another top prospect, Trevor Larnach, started in left field and right field, respectively, for Team Polanco.