Byron Buxton’s minor league season is probably over.
Now that the Twins’ top prospect, who suffered a concussion during a collision with teammate Mike Kvasnicka during his Class AA debut last Wednesday, is back at the Twins’ camp in Florida, the team is unlikely to send him back to the Rock Cats this year, General Manager Terry Ryan said Monday.
“I would doubt it,” Ryan said of the chances Buxton plays again before the Eastern League season ends. The Rock Cats “are on the road [until Aug. 29, four days before season’s end], he’s going to be in Florida, [and] we still have to go through the protocol of getting him cleared. I’m not sure we’re going to mess with” salvaging a handful of games this season.
That doesn’t mean the outfielder will sit idle until next spring, not after playing only 31 games this year because of wrist injuries and now a concussion. The fall Instructional League begins in mid-September in Florida, and while Buxton is more experienced than most players in that league, at 20 years old, he’s not much older. And the Arizona Fall League, a monthlong showcase for the game’s top prospects, in which Buxton took part in last year, begins Oct. 7.
“I don’t want to be premature about how he’s going to recover, how he’s going to feel two weeks from now. First things first,” Ryan said. But once he passes the major leagues’ concussion protocols, getting at-bats in the fall “makes some sense. It might be a good direction.”
Ryan emphasized how fortunate Buxton is to be going in any direction after being knocked cold by Kvasnicka’s knee while trying to catch a fly ball, saying: “He’s really lucky. He was ready to go, energetic, anxious and ready to show what he can do. Then, bam! … If that had been head-to-head or something, who knows what would have happened?”
As far as Ryan knows, Buxton has suffered a few headaches since the collision, which sent him to the hospital in an ambulance, but few long-term concussion symptoms, which gives the Twins some optimism about his recovery. And Kvasnicka, the former Gophers player who suffered only a bruised hip, should return to action Tuesday.
Buxton batted .240 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 30 games with Class A Fort Myers, plus an 0-for-3 night (three strikeouts) in his only game at New Britain. Still, Ryan said he wouldn’t call it a lost season for Buxton, who was widely projected to advance to Class AAA Rochester, and perhaps even the major leagues, this year.
“He has [made progress], because he’s learned. Almost every guy in a major league clubhouse has had to go through the [disabled] list,” Ryan said. “Let’s see what he does the rest of the fall, see how he responds. He hasn’t lost his skills, he got hurt. It’s not like he can’t bunt, throw, field, range. … He’s got a lot of career ahead of him, so I’m not too concerned about it.”
Gardy tossed again
Ron Gardenhire was ejected for the fifth time this season, and 72nd of his career, in the first inning of Monday night’s game. When Joe Mauer swung at a 3-2 changeup from Royals starter Jason Vargas, he tipped the ball, and Salvador Perez caught it as it hit the dirt. Umpire Chris Segal ruled that Perez caught it in time, and Mauer was out, but Gardenhire and Mauer both insisted that it hit the dirt first.
Gardenhire asked Segal to look at the ball for evidence, but Segal declined. Gardenhire continued to complain after returning to the dugout, and Segal finally turned toward the dugout and threw him out.
Check back in January
The strained oblique muscle that cost Mauer almost six weeks is still sore, but the Twins first baseman said he intends to play as many games this season as possible.
“I want to be in there every day,” Mauer said.
So when does Mauer think the oblique injury might disappear completely? “Ask me at TwinsFest,” he deadpanned.