Buxton learning something new: Taking it slow

Day by day, Twins' center fielder recovering from Sept. surgery to ready self for '20 season

February 15th, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This time, the fastest man in the Major Leagues is totally fine with a more deliberate pace.

enters this camp with some clearly positive momentum following his season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder last September. And though he's eager to build on what he acknowledges was an important and needed 2019, he's just focusing on the positives of the continued progress in his recovery.

The center fielder has been swinging since late January and hit off a tee Saturday morning in front of new hitting coach Edgar Varela. He said that he has progressed to hitting soft toss this week with only slight -- and expected -- soreness: "Everything going according to plan."

"I'm feeling good," he added. "Obviously, not being able to swing since September, just being able to get a moving object back toward you, that's always the fun part of the rehab process. It kind of just relieves you a little bit mentally, allows you to know that things are going forward, you haven't taken a step back. Always positives I try to take out of each day."

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the Twins hope to have Buxton ramped up to game action by mid-March, but Buxton himself didn't put any timeline on his return in Spring Training. The sole focus for both Buxton and the Twins remains getting him ready for Opening Day on March 26 in Oakland.

Buxton was sidelined for the end of the regular season and the duration of the postseason following his Sept. 10 surgery as a result of a collision with the outfield wall at Marlins Park on Aug. 1.

"There's no rushing this process," Buxton said. "I know what I've got to do to be able to get back to being myself, and rushing is not one of them."

Buxton spoke plenty last spring about going back to "being [himself]," and the Twins got an important taste of their center fielder's value in a prove-it year, when he hit .262/.314/.513 with 30 doubles and set career bests in most rate statistics. He was among the Majors' leaders in doubles before he was sidelined with various injuries.

It certainly wasn't the elusive full season that both he and the Twins have sought since his debut. The 2017 campaign was the closest thing to that, when Buxton posted 5.1 bWAR in 140 games and won the American League Platinum Glove Award. But more importantly, he felt good in '19. He went back to the simple swing from high school that worked out for him -- and he found both results and his swagger.

It would have been understandable if Buxton had gotten discouraged by the difficulties of all that missed time and all those setbacks. But he sees it all firmly behind him, and he's more excited to just build on his success and be part of the win-now team that the Twins have built for 2020.

"Obviously, my couple of years up here haven't been the way I wanted them to go, but last year was a start," Buxton said. "Obviously, I can't control getting hit by pitches or migraines -- whatever the situation was last year. But it was fun while it lasted. It was one of those things where I looked back, I took the positives, and I just kind of ran with it. I know this year is going to be a better year.

"Nothing has changed," he added. "My mindset was in a good spot. Felt good. Still feel the same person -- just a little bit more experience."