ST. LOUIS -- Nick Gordon hasn't had an easy path to establishing himself as a big league regular, considering his years-long battle with chronic gastritis that sapped him of his body weight and energy, even before a recurring bout of COVID-19 sidelined him for the entire 2020 season.
You wouldn't be able to tell that now, considering how Gordon has played and how the Twins have handled him in his first consistent taste of the Majors.
In fact, after Minnesota activated Luis Arraez from the 10-day injured list Saturday, Gilberto Celestino was sent down to Triple-A St. Paul while Gordon remained on the roster, the latest indication that Gordon's ability to learn a capable center field on the fly has seemingly cemented the Twins' trust in his abilities and helped him earn more opportunities moving forward.
"Nick has and will continue to improve as an outfielder," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I already think he's a pretty good center fielder. I feel very comfortable with him out there, regardless of situation. I think the goal here, too is ... he's going to continue to get better. He has so little time out there that the way he's playing the position to this point, it's been impressive."
Though Gordon had never played center field as a professional before the Twins thrust him into action there on June 9, his abilities there have progressed to the point where Baldelli was even comfortable using him as a defensive replacement to protect a one-run lead in Monday's victory over Detroit.
There wasn't any expectation of that before the season, and in fact, during Spring Training, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey noted that his only hope was that Gordon could remain healthy this year and show that his body could endure the rigors of a full season.
But now he's got 35 games under his belt at this level. The 25-year-old's newfound versatility between the infield and outfield -- including the possible ability to play shortstop in the future -- might herald a more certain big league future at the tail end of all the uncertainty he's endured.
"I feel like I still have so much work to do," Gordon said. "Who knows what my ceiling can be or what my ceiling is? I just want to continue to try to prove people wrong, continue to try to work my hardest and be places no one really expected me to be."
Rogers hoping to avoid surgery on finger
As Taylor Rogers continues to receive additional opinions regarding the next steps for his sprained left middle finger, Baldelli said the Twins' closer hopes to avoid a surgical procedure and instead allow the injury to heal with rest.
Rogers sustained the injury, later described as involving the pulley tendon in the finger, during a July 26 appearance in which he threw only five pitches before the injury necessitated his early exit. Baldelli described the opinion that Rogers avoid surgery to be the "conservative" option.
"I do think he's comfortable with that at the moment," Baldelli said. "There's not much for him to do right now, either, except listen and try to figure out exactly the next approach, as far as rest and icing and some treatment, is all he can do right now."
There's not much that Baldelli can definitively say about Rogers' course of action for now as the left-hander and the Twins continue to gather information, but the manager said his original belief was that Rogers would not pitch again this season -- though he won't rule anything out until the Twins have all of the relevant information.
Buxton begins swinging bat in tee work
Byron Buxton's recovery from his broken left hand saw him progress to some light catch play on the field during the Twins' last homestand, and Baldelli said the Minnesota center fielder has taken another step with some light swinging and tee work back home in Minneapolis as the Twins began a three-city road trip through St. Louis, Cincinnati and Houston.
"Gripping and ramping his strengthening of is going to be important before he can start doing things at a competitive, live-type speed," Baldelli said. "That's where we're focusing right now, and swinging the bat is obviously going to be a big part of the start of that tee work."
Trade rumors surrounding Buxton escalated in the hours leading into Friday's Trade Deadline, especially when reports emerged that he and the Twins didn't agree on a contract extension in the previous week. With Buxton still in the fold, the Twins are just eager to see him back on the field in their uniform again in the coming weeks.
"Frankly, I'm very pleased we still have Buck here, and he's obviously an enormous part and leader in our operation over here," Baldelli said. "Having Buck here makes me feel very good. We just want to get him healthy and focused on the baseball side of the game and get him ready to go."