Buxton (foot) carted off; club cautiously optimistic

July 14th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins center fielder was carted off the field during the third inning of Minnesota's intrasquad scrimmage on Monday at Target Field after sustaining a left foot injury, the club announced. Buxton was taken off-site to undergo imaging, with further details of the injury expected to come Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Following the game, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said that the Twins were "cautiously optimistic" about Buxton's condition after an initial examination didn't appear to show any serious injury. The Twins will still be thorough with their examination of Buxton on Monday night.

"Regardless of where the injury ends up, those guys have so much respect for Byron that they know the difficulty in dealing with it, the physical part of it, the mental part of it," Baldelli said. "The initial reaction is not just to get back to work, even though all of our guys will get back to focusing on whatever comes next, their mind is definitely with him and any of their teammates that are dealing with something like that."

Buxton originally retreated in the direction of the warning track in right-center field as he settled under a deep fly hit by Nelson Cruz before appearing to adjust his route toward the ball. He suddenly fell to the grass and remained down on the field as right fielder LaMonte Wade Jr. immediately gestured to the dugout for the medical staff.

"He didn't do anything wrong out there today," Baldelli said. "It was just a misstep in the outfield, and that's really the only way I would describe it."

Buxton was examined by athletic trainer Matt Biancuzzo and Baldelli in center field for more than five minutes as much of the Twins' defense gathered to watch behind second base as all action ground to a halt. Following the examination, the Twins summoned a cart to the scene and four staff members supported the center fielder as he was placed onto the cart and driven off the field.

"We all asked what he got, because we didn't know," said José Berríos, who was on the mound at the time. "It's weird, because we're playing baseball. The thing we love to do, and we see something like that. That hurts us."

If Buxton were to require an absence from the field, the Twins have depth on the roster in Max Kepler, Jake Cave and Wade, all of whom have center-field experience. Last season, the Twins showed a preference for playing Kepler or Wade in center and moving Cave or Marwin González into a corner outfield spot, though Baldelli also spoke a bit to the downsides of exposing Kepler to the increased wear and tear of the position.

Either way, Cave or Wade could be in line for increased time in the outfield if needed because González is currently anchored at first base due to the COVID-related absence of Miguel Sanó.

The 26-year-old Buxton had been eager to get back on the field as a full participant in Summer Camp following his complete recovery from left shoulder surgery last September that repaired a torn labrum, sustained during a collision with the outfield wall at Marlins Park. He was unable to hit with the team or participate in games during the original Spring Training period in February and March, as he was at the tail end of his recovery from the procedure.

Buxton's extensive -- and unlucky -- injury history has been well-documented over the years, including four stints on the injured list in 2019 for a right wrist contusion following a hit-by-pitch, concussion-like symptoms from a diving catch and two separate stints for the left shoulder subluxation that ultimately ended his season. He had also been on the IL as a professional eight times before '19.

But entering this season, Buxton and the Twins had been hopeful about his health and performance due to several factors, including the extra muscle that the center fielder added before the '19 season and mental and physical adjustments to his defense that the Twins hoped would put Buxton at a lesser risk for injury in the field.

His performance at the plate last season also offered plenty of reason for optimism, as he set career-bests in doubles (30), batting average (.262), slugging percentage (.513) and OPS (.827) while playing his customarily elite defense in center.

"Like I said in Spring Training, I also had a little bit more time to kind of figure out when to be aggressive and when to be a little bit more conservative," Buxton said last week. "I worked a little bit more on jumping off two feet. That kind of keeps me a little bit more in control, especially toward the wall. So that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve worked on this offseason and over this break. Just little things to try to get that edge."

Buxton was a late arrival to Summer Camp due to the recent birth of his second son but quickly made his way into regular action, both at the plate and in his customary center-field position.

He hadn't appeared particularly rusty at the plate as he clubbed a pair of sharp doubles in his first two intrasquad games, and also put together one of the most impressive at-bats of camp in which he battled All-Star right-hander Jake Odorizzi for 13 pitches, including 11 foul balls, until the at-bat ended, deemed a stalemate.

"We’re at our best with Buck," Baldelli said. "I mean, that’s a very easy statement to make. But we also know that we’re going to have to have many guys step up over the course of this short season. We’re going to be dealing with adversity. ... Every guy steps up in his own way and fills in until the other guy comes back. Again, the guys are not going to shy away from anything difficult."