Byron Buxton was able to crack a smile at times Friday, even though he was wearing what Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called “a box under his elbow.”

That’s exactly what the brace Buxton is wearing following shoulder surgery looks like, a sling with black straps that wraps around his right shoulder and crosses down and to the left, where his arm is immobilized inside a box-shaped brace. The center fielder can’t move his arm — he can’t risk tearing the stitches from the surgery — and can only pat down the area with a cloth when he cleans up in the morning.

He had the look of someone who is not going to play for a while and, to be clear, Buxton is frustrated about another season not ending on his terms.

But he has to move forward. After talking through the mental challenge of dealing with another injury with family, friends and teammates, Buxton is moving on by living through his teammates as they push for an AL Central title.

“That was the biggest thing for me — to not interfere with what we were doing,” Buxton said. “We’re doing some crazy things this season. Even though I’m done, I’m able to watch and the things we’re doing are still incredible. It’s still fun to watch even though I’m not out there.”

Buxton injured his shoulder Aug. 1 while chasing after a drive hit by the Marlins’ Harold Ramirez in Miami. After taking time off, the best he could do was pinch run and play defense. When his condition didn’t improve, he headed to Los Angeles to be examined by specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Buxton ended up having surgery Sept. 10 to repair a torn labrum and will be sidelined four to six months. He will have the stitches removed next week but will be immobilized for about six weeks.

Buxton said he knew the day he was injured that it was serious. When he left for Los Angeles, he packed for a lengthy stay.

“I think I just hit it at an awkward angle,” he said. “I know I felt it when I dislocated it. But at the time, with the adrenaline pumping, you don’t really think about it. It’s kind of second nature. You think you’re just sore. It’s one of those things where, as long as I was playing and kept it moving, I was perfectly fine. It was after that game and I sat for about 10 minutes at my locker and got ready to get up and I knew then it wasn’t right.”

Buxton batted .263 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI in 87 games. Before the injury, he looked poised for a breakout season. As he heals following surgery, Buxton will support his teammates any way he can. Just not on the field.

“Don’t change. Be me,” Buxton said. “Smile every day and just take it how it is. I can’t change the situation, so just keep everybody in the game. Like he said, I like to bring a lot of energy and keep people smiling and keep people feeling good. That’s what I’m going to try to do. I keep everybody up.”

Cron manages hand

Twins first baseman C.J. Cron returned to the lineup on Friday, his first start since Sunday. He continues to battle a sore right thumb that makes it hard to swing.

Cron doesn’t want to miss too much time, and the Twins have been working on a way to keep him from aggravating it.

“I’ll stay away from getting into all the details, but those guys have been doing a little work on him and I think it’s going to allow us to get him out there,” Baldelli said. “I don’t know if he’s going to be able to play every day, get five at-bats, come back the next day, do the same thing over and over again.”