KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For Byron Buxton, the realization hit him when he couldn’t steal a base because of the pain in his foot. For Ervin Santana, it was a combination of lack of velocity, a grip that “feels off” and swelling that keeps coming back.
Nagging injuries are mending more slowly than the Twins would like, so on Wednesday, they decided to temporarily shut down both Buxton and Santana to give them more time to heal.
“I didn’t trust [his fractured left toe] to put pressure on it,” Buxton said of his reluctance to steal a base as a pinch-runner during Tuesday’s 2-1 loss. “I knew then, if I couldn’t steal a base, then something ain’t right. It’s changing the way I’m playing.”
Buxton was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday, and will have x-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging test done on his left foot when the team returns to Minneapolis on Thursday.
“He’s been trying to fight through this thing for awhile. … [It’s] been very problematic, in terms of mechanics, being able to swing properly, and all those types of things. It’s taken away some of his aggressiveness as a baserunner,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “When I watch him take certain swings, he has to step out and regroup. I wouldn’t say it’s overly noticeable, but if you’re paying attention, you can see how it affects him.”
Buxton is just 6-for-47 (.128) since returning to action three weeks after fracturing his left big toe in a rehab game with Class A Fort Myers. “Trying to hit off your heel instead of the ball of your foot is not conducive to staying on the ball, especially the ball where he has to reach out over the plate,” Molitor said.
The pain never subsided, and Buxton realized “pretty quick” after being activated May 10 that it was going to be a problem. But “you don’t want to feel like you’re letting your team down. So I put that in my head: Hitting is going to come around, just keep playing defense,” Buxton said. “It was [a problem at the plate] pretty much the whole time. Trying to land, trying to find different ways to keep it from barking. Each time, I’d find myself having a different swing.”
Santana, meanwhile, was hoping the middle finger on his pitching hand would have healed by now from his Feb. 4 surgery to remove a calcium deposit, and he began a rehab assignment last week in hopes of return to the majors by early June. But “almost on a daily basis, we’re dealing with some kind of swelling or discomfort” in the finger, Molitor said, and his first two rehab starts were discouraging. Santana’s velocity was mostly in the high 80s, far from the 94-mph he threw during his All-Star season last year.
“Ervin’s comments are not so much about pain, but the grip feels off,” Molitor said. “Whether that affects his confidence to let it go, or the fact that he’s actually limited by his ability to grip the ball, some of these things we have to find out.”
The Twins withdrew Santana from the rehab assignment, and the pitcher will return to New York to see his surgeon, Dr. Charles Melone, for a new examination. The Twins can begin a new 30-day rehab assignment when Santana’s finger recovers.
Slegers recalled, then shipped out
To replace Buxton on the roster, the Twins summoned righthander Aaron Slegers from Class AAA Rochester, where he was 5-2 with a 3.27 ERA in nine starts.
Slegers had a short but effective stay. He bailed out the bullpen, which had to cover 17 innings in the past five days, by pitching 51/3 innings Wednesday as the Twins fought back from a 9-0 deficit before eventually succumbing 11-8 to the Royals. He was optioned back to Rochester after the game.
The Twins will fill his roster spot on Thursday.
Joe Mauer went through another workout at Target Field on Wednesday, and Molitor said he’s “still hopeful” that the first baseman will be activated “sometime this weekend.” But it probably won’t be on Thursday, he said.