Even on IL, Buxton trying to bring 'charisma' to Twins

August 27th, 2022

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was out looking for milk for his son the other day, he said, when a woman walked up to him and simply told him: “I like your charisma.”

He couldn’t stop thinking about that.

The center fielder has always been the first to say this season that he’s not necessarily the most vocal of leaders in the Minnesota clubhouse. He’s not the loud one; he’s not the one going out of his way to fire up his teammates. He likes to lead by example on the field. That’s just who he is. When he’s playing well, he shows it with his huge grin and infectious energy. He can’t help but let that show after big hits or game-changing defensive plays.

For the time being, though, he can’t provide that sort of surge with his play -- but his team needs him now, more than ever. That’s why he still thinks about that comment from the store.

“It was something that just kind of stuck with me the last couple days, watching us play, and it didn’t look like we were smiling, being positive, having fun like we normally would,” Buxton said. “So that’s something I feel like I can bring back, turn it around, even if I’m not playing.”

Buxton wasn’t there with his teammates in Houston when they were swept at Minute Maid Park, as he was back in the Twin Cities receiving treatment and waiting for the soreness to go down in his strained right hip, which sent him to the IL for the first time this season following Monday’s series finale against the Rangers.

That was extra disappointing to Buxton, as he had set it as a goal to avoid the IL altogether for the first time since 2016, even through the severe knee issues that have led to constant treatment and management throughout the season. Working with the coaching and training staff through issues that almost certainly would have sidelined other players, he really did come close to finishing out the season -- and saw that availability translate to a starting nod in the All-Star Game.

So, there’s hope that this stint off his feet will get Buxton closer to the version of him that the Twins need on a day-to-day basis, with time for both the knee and hip to heal.

“He’s probably, hopefully, going to be in a better spot when he comes off the IL than where he’s been for about four and a half months,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s probably going to be feeling better. Do I know that? I don’t know that with certainty, but I’m hopeful of that, and I think it’s realistic.”

All Buxton can do for now is to keep smiling and hope the pain in his hip goes down, sooner rather than later, resting an injury that the Twins hope won’t keep him away too long. Part of his reasoning for trying to avoid the IL for so long -- and he tried to talk his way out of it for 30 minutes this time, he said -- was that he feels like he’s letting his team down by not being out there to battle with them.

But as Baldelli has said before, Buxton’s presence is contagious -- and if even a stranger can see the charisma in him, perhaps that can make a difference, too.

“Team comes first to me, so for me, it’s all about having their back, and getting put on the IL doesn’t feel like I have their back,” Buxton said. “Just me trying to get back.”