Buxton takes batting practice, nears return
Twins rookie progressing with recovery from sprained thumb
MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton moved another step closer to his return Thursday, participating in batting practice on the field for the first time since spraining his thumb in late June.
"It felt good," Buxton said. "We're just trying to get out there and not do too much and just swing the bat a little bit and try to see how it feels, but it feels great."
Buxton, the league's No. 1 prospect according to MLBpipeline.com, said he hasn't been told what comes next, but both manager Paul Molitor and general manager Terry Ryan have said the next step for Buxton is a short trip down to Fort Myers, Fla., to continue his recovery before a rehab assignment. Molitor said they are optimistic that Buxton can get down to Florida by the end of the weekend or, at the latest, early next week.
"It was a really good day for him and I say that as an observer, not as a guy who talked to him after he got done," Molitor said. "Watching him hit, [it] seemed like he really hadn't missed any time. He jumped right in there and every swing looked free and pain-free."
Earlier in the week, Ryan said a month seemed like it could be a "stretch," for Buxton's return, meaning he might be back earlier, though Buxton said that timetable hadn't been communicated to him.
"I'm just going to go wherever I go and just have good at-bats and hit the ball hard," he said.
Buxton, who was only up for 11 games before injuring his thumb sliding into second base, was happy to return to baseball activities.
"It's very exciting," Buxton said. "I mean especially after only playing  games, I'm just ready to get back out there and try to help us win any way I can."
In the meantime, he has continued doing his strengthening exercises and said he will do so until he's back for good, something the Twins are looking forward to even though Aaron Hicks has filled in well lately.
"I think you have to keep in mind that Hicks is playing really well but if Byron Buxton is playing at a level that can help our team, I think you have to try to find a way to make it work somehow," said Molitor.
• Molitor expects third baseman Trevor Plouffe to be out until Saturday. Plouffe and his wife Olivia welcomed a son, Theodore "Teddy" Winston James Plouffe, late Wednesday night.
"I think that they're going to probably take the time allotted to get acclimated to the new life that they have brought in," Molitor said. "I think I would take the three days if I was him because that's pretty special."
• In Plouffe's absence, Miguel Sano will get the start Thursday at third base. Sano, who has mostly served as the team's designated hitter, is making just his second start at third this season and the first since he sprained his ankle on July 18.