Buxton seems 'ready' to start rehab stint

Twins OF continues running progression; Polanco update; Vaccine clinic

May 25th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- could head out on a rehab assignment by the end of the week and return to the Twins soon after that, manager Rocco Baldelli said on Monday, which would serve as a big lift for an injury-riddled roster looking to gain ground in the American League Central.

Buxton started swinging in the batting cages over the weekend and he has tested out his strained hip with some striders (short acceleration drills). Baldelli indicated that Buxton will soon progress to running the bases.

Once Buxton starts running close to full speed, the Twins will try to get him into a rehab game as the designated hitter and one or more games in center field, at which point they hope he will be ready to rejoin the Major League team. The Triple-A Saints are on the road in Iowa this week.

"All the running progression has to continue on the path it’s been on, but he’s doing well, and he seems like it’s something he’s ready for," Baldelli said.

Buxton was hitting .370/.408/.772 when he last appeared for the Twins on May 6. He appeared to sustain the Grade 2 hip strain on a swing in a game against the Rangers. At the time, Baldelli described Buxton's timeline as being a matter of "weeks" and not days.

Buxton hasn't felt any issues in the hip while swinging, and his ability to run at full speed has been the limiting factor in his return. While he's been anxious to return to the field, Buxton said that "pretty much everybody" has helped him quell that anxiety, giving him time to fully recover.

"The doctors made it sound worse than what I thought it was going to be, I guess," Buxton said. "For me, I know my body is pretty quick to recover, so I knew that I had that on my side. For me, it wasn't going to be six weeks, but I definitely thought it was going to be a little bit lengthier."

Not only has Buxton been out for nearly three weeks, but Jake Cave is on the 60-day injured list and Max Kepler is dealing with hamstring tightness, meaning the Twins relied on utility man Rob Refsnyder as their starting center fielder for the previous several days.

Polanco 'OK to play going forward'

Kepler (hamstring tightness), Nelson Cruz (left wrist soreness), Jorge Polanco (right ankle soreness) and Luis Arraez (right shoulder soreness) were all out of the starting lineup against lefty John Means and the Orioles on Monday, but in an encouraging sign, both Cruz and Polanco made it into the Twins' 8-3 win -- Cruz as a pinch-hitter and Polanco as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

Polanco took infield drills, ran the bases and hit on the field before Monday's game. As was the case with his right ankle in 2019 and '20, his ability to swing comfortably from the left side is of greatest concern to the club -- though he belted several homers from that side during batting practice at Target Field.

All of that work went well enough for Polanco to be cleared for action in the game -- including hitting, if needed.

"I do think he’s doing better, and physically and mentally getting to a place where I think he can go out there, knowing he might be feeling something in his ankle," Baldelli said. "We prefer him to feel nothing, but I think he’s going to be OK to play going forward."

Baldelli said before the game that the Twins are still trying to evaluate if there's structural damage to Polanco's ankle, on which he underwent surgery in consecutive offseasons. With that history in mind, they'll still keep a careful eye on how he responds to increased action in the coming days.

Vaccine clinic at Target Field

The Twins, in partnership with Cub Pharmacies, are offering COVID-19 vaccines at Target Field for fans 18 years and older throughout this three-game series against the Orioles.

Fans will have the opportunity to receive the one-dose vaccine in the concourse area inside Gate 34 in right field from when gates open through the seventh inning of each game. They will also receive a voucher for one complimentary Home Plate View ticket for any remaining Value or Select regular-season home game in 2021.

Hayden accepts position at Stanford

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hayden spent her last day with the Twins on Monday after accepting a position with the women's basketball program at Stanford University, the club announced on Monday.

Hayden was believed to be the first female MLB strength and conditioning coach in uniform in league history after the club promoted her to the post following the 2019 season.

"Andrea’s been just a spectacular member of our group and our family here in the clubhouse," Baldelli said. "The way she came in and connected with our players and our staff was pretty special. It was an emotional day for her and for a lot of people here."