'This isn't fair': Buxton has left hand fracture

Hit-by-pitch has Twins center fielder headed for another stint on injured list

June 22nd, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- As goes, so do the Twins -- which is why the club was hoping that the hit-by-pitch in Monday night’s 7-5 win in 12 innings against the Reds wasn't anything too serious.

But the Twins' beleaguered center fielder just can't catch a break.

The club announced that X-rays revealed a left hand fracture for Buxton -- described as a boxer's fracture -- that is expected to sideline him once again for weeks, if not months, though the Twins didn't have an exact timeline for his recovery immediately following the opener of a two-game Interleague Series at Target Field. On Tuesday, Minnesota placed Buxton on the 10-day injured list and recalled Gilberto Celestino from Triple-A St. Paul.

"We can’t talk about fairness," manager Rocco Baldelli said after the game. "It’s not. This isn’t fair. That’s how I feel about the whole thing, and I’ll be thinking about him often in the near future, because this is going to be tough to bear."

In his third game since being activated from the injured list following his recovery from a hip strain, Buxton was struck on the left hand by a 93.7 mph fastball from Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle during the fourth inning. Buxton was initially diagnosed with a left hand contusion before imaging revealed the extent of the damage.

The center fielder had originally remained in the game after pleading his case to Baldelli and head athletic trainer Michael Salazar, and Buxton fielded his position in the top of the fifth inning, when he ranged far into the right-center-field gap to snag the inning-ending fly ball. He didn’t return to the field for the sixth and was replaced by Nick Gordon in center field.

“He is so tough, and he’s willing to literally play with just about anything," Baldelli said. "He would have to not be able to walk for him to come out and say, ‘I can’t play.’ The words never come out of his mouth. You would have to literally remove him from the field to get him off the field. That’s just who he is as a guy and as a competitor.

"He was in immense pain on the field after getting hit by that pitch, and I think anyone, including him, had to know if you’re feeling something like that, it might not be a good situation. He doesn’t react to pain. He just goes out there and keeps playing."

Buxton had been 4-for-11 with two infield singles, a double and a homer in parts of three games since he returned on Saturday from the hip strain that had sidelined him for nearly six weeks. His hip appeared more than fine as he ran out both of those hits with sprint speeds far exceeding the elite threshold of 30 ft./sec., including one in Monday’s second inning as part of a three-run rally by the Twins.

He is hitting .369/.409/.767 with 10 homers, 11 doubles and five steals in 27 games so far this season.

Buxton has already dealt with a right hamstring strain and the hip strain this season, but only the latter sent him to the IL. The Twins were 17-22 in his absence. The injury didn’t stop him from continuing to garner support on the All-Star ballot, with the latest update showing him third among all American League outfielders behind Mike Trout and Aaron Judge in the first round of voting.

But now, Buxton won't be able to enjoy that potential honor -- or continue his torrid, career-best season at the plate -- due to another in a line of brutal setbacks that have recently included a run-in with the wall that resulted in a season-ending shoulder surgery in 2019 and a hit-by-pitch in the helmet against these Reds in September 2020, which held him out of the starting lineup for both playoff games.

"No one should have to deal with what Buck is dealing with right now, and none of it’s through any fault of his own," Baldelli said. "He’s the most upstanding, hard-working, wonderful teammate and baseball player that you could find. Again, tough night, and I feel for him a lot."