Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has not said much publicly about when he expects Byron Buxton back after the outfielder suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hip on May 6 against Texas, except for saying it would take a matter of weeks and Buxton must ramp up through a running progression.
But finally, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel: Baldelli said Monday that Buxton could be sent out on a rehab assignment “towards the end of the week.”
Baldelli said Buxton might serve as a designated hitter first and if all goes well, he might “play in the field for at least one day, if not multiple days, and then hopefully he can rejoin us.”
Buxton, who was out on the field with his teammates pregame on Monday, said he began hitting in the cage over the weekend and that felt fine. The real test for him is running, which he has started to do but has not yet progressed to running the bases.
Though Buxton admitted the progression is “just a little slower” than he’d like, he’s happy with the progress he’s made and said “pretty much everybody” has been helping him not rush himself back.
“They reiterate it to me quite enough to make sure I’m being smart, not overdo it,” Buxton said. “It’s definitely good to have (the team) back and have that positive energy to come back out here and get healthy quickly.”
A banged-up Twins team could sure use Buxton, who was hitting .370 with a .408 on-base percentage and a .772 slugging percentage at the time of his injury, and it sounds possible they’ll be getting him back earlier than initially anticipated.
“The doctors made it sound worse than what I thought it was going to be, I guess,” Buxton said. “For me, I know my body is pretty quick to recover, so I knew that I had that on my side. For me, it wasn’t going to be six weeks.”
Four dealing with injuries
Luis Arraez (shoulder), Max Kepler (hamstring), Nelson Cruz (wrist) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) were all out of the Twins’ starting lineup on Monday as they continue to deal with ailments.
Arraez hurt his shoulder on a slide while in Cleveland, Kepler’s hamstring tightness has been affecting his ability to run around in the outfield, and neither Polanco and Cruz have played since Thursday. Cruz was hit on the wrist with a pitch that day during the team’s doubleheader in Anaheim, Calif.
The collection of injuries has left the Twins shorthanded on the bench.
Kepler and Polanco’s injuries seem to be more serious than the other two, and Baldelli said “I don’t really think anyone can answer that right now,” when asked if they might be able to avoid the injured list.
“If we get to the point where the guys are not improving enough on a daily basis and they’re not going to be able to help us over the next few days, then we’ll make a decision when we get there,” Baldelli said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. But when you do have more than one or two guys banged up like that, it also becomes a factor in the decision, too, when you’re dealing with four, five, six guys.”
Polanco, who received a cortisone shot over the weekend, was out testing out the ankle pregame on Monday. He took infield drills and participated in batting practice.
The infielder has had surgery twice on his right ankle and reaggravated it earlier this month on a slide during a game against Oakland. The ankle is particularly bothersome for Polanco when swinging left-handed, leading to a drop in production last season as he tried to play through pain.
“We want to be sure of the location, the mechanism at which he feels it and how it’s affecting him – if it’s exactly the same as before or if it’s a little different,” Baldelli said. “And that’s what testing him and putting him through all these things is hopefully going to do.”
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hayden accepted a job with the Stanford University women’s basketball team, spending her last day with the Twins on Monday. Hayden, who first joined the Twins in 2019 for a fellowship, was promoted ahead of the 2020 season and became the first female strength and conditioning coach in major league history. … Baldelli said Kenta Maeda, who is on the injured list with an adductor strain, is also dealing with mild soreness in his arm, and it would be “at least a couple of days before we start putting a ball back in his hand.”