MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton's season is over.
The Twins placed Buxton on the 60-day injured list with his left shoulder subluxation on Tuesday, with the 25-year-old center fielder scheduled to undergo season-ending labrum surgery in the afternoon to prepare him for a return to the field next season. The initial recovery time is estimated at around 5-6 months, though the Twins will have a better idea of the details once the surgery is complete.
"It is a reality that we knew was very possible, and maybe, even, at different times, probable," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's still disappointing, obviously, to lose Buck -- the player and the guy -- for the rest of the year. But we're going to do whatever we can to support Buck. We need to make sure that he gets right physically."
The Twins had initially felt that it was possible that Buxton could return to hitting before the end of the season when they activated him off the 10-day IL on Sept. 1 to play in a limited capacity as a defensive replacement and as a pinch-runner. Buxton had appeared in five games since then without recording a plate appearance.
According to Baldelli, the discomfort in Buxton's shoulder persisted through the outfielder's playing stint, and when Buxton again tried swinging a bat around the time the team was at Fenway Park last week, the Twins felt that the healing process wasn't going to progress to where it needed to be by the end of the season.
Buxton went to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache in California before the Twins' off-day on Monday, and because the injury wasn't going to completely heal without surgery, the Twins shut their center fielder down for the season and started looking toward next season.
"We didn't want to be out there masking his pain and his injury," Baldelli said. "We wanted to give him the opportunity to actually get healthy. And he wasn't getting healthy. He was making small improvements. To be completely fair to him, we have to give him the opportunity to get right."
Buxton finishes his 2019 season with career highs in batting average (.262), slugging (.513), OPS (.827) and doubles (30). Various injuries have limited him to just 115 games since the start of the 2018 season. Baldelli has spoken several times about Buxton's value as a baserunner and a fielder, but the Twins decided not to keep him on the roster in a limited capacity through the end of the season and in the playoffs.
Baldelli anticipated that Buxton will return to Minneapolis to rejoin the team following his surgery.
"Anything that he was going to do and help us with this year was probably going to end up being on a limited, part-time basis, and that's not right," Baldelli said. "We've got to make sure that we get him set up and get him on a timeline where he's ready for next Spring Training. That's why we made the decision, and he made the decision, to get the surgery."
The Twins selected the contract of utility man Ronald Torreyes to take Buxton's place on the 40-man roster. They also activated Kyle Gibson from the 10-day IL ahead of the right-hander's scheduled start in Thursday's series finale against the Nationals.
Max Kepler will likely serve as the club's everyday center fielder in Buxton's absence, but Kepler, too, is currently out due to upper chest discomfort and a left shoulder injury, and the Twins will need to piece together their outfield picture in the immediate future until Kepler, Jake Cave (pulled left groin) and Marwin Gonzalez (right abdominal/oblique strain) heal.
Once everybody is healthy, the Twins will likely rely heavily on Cave through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs to fill the Twins' need in right field alongside Gonzalez, though Baldelli said on Tuesday that he would likely not have a meaningful update on either player's progress for another several days.
For now, that means LaMonte Wade Jr. and Willians Astudillo should see heavy playing time until everyone is healthy, with a spot for Astudillo appearing more likely on a possible playoff roster with Gonzalez looking to be forced into more regular action in the outfield.