Byron Buxton won’t be at TwinsFest next weekend, but he’s got a good excuse: He finally can start getting ready for spring training.
Buxton, who underwent surgery on Sept. 10 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, has healed enough, the Twins determined this week, to swing a bat again. The 26-year-old center fielder, given medical clearance after being examined in the Twin Cities on Wednesday and Thursday by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chris Camp, flew immediately to Fort Myers, Fla., in order to begin workouts at the team’s spring headquarters.
He will be limited to hitting off a tee or doing other basic drills while his shoulder gains strength, but the Twins expect Buxton to progress to hitting off a pitching machine by early next month. He could be ready to hit live pitching when the Twins hold their first full-squad workout on Feb. 17.
Buxton, who recently avoided arbitration by signing a $3.075 million contract for 2020, played in only 87 games in 2019 because of an assortment of injuries. He missed 13 games in June after getting hit on the right wrist by a pitch, then missed 10 more games in July because of a concussion suffered after he dived to make a catch.
As for the shoulder, he injured it when he ran into the center field fence at Miami’s Marlins Park on Aug. 1. He returned to the Twins in September, but only for five games as a late-inning defensive replacement, before doctors decided surgery was necessary.
He won’t be the only Twins player missing from the team’s winter fan event next Friday and Saturday. Marwin Gonzalez, who is taking part in daily rehab sessions after undergoing a minor procedure on his right knee in October, also will be absent from Target Field.
And Nelson Cruz, who has begun his spring regimen in earnest already, will remain at his home in the Dominican Republic; Willians Astudillo, who returned to Venezuela to play winter ball, also has been excused.
So has Tyler Duffey, whose wife is pregnant with the couple’s first child. And top prospect Alex Kirilloff had to cancel his planned Twins Caravan and TwinsFest appearances to be with his wife, confined to bed rest during her pregnancy.