ST. LOUIS — Paul Molitor sat with Byron Buxton at his locker for about five minutes on Tuesday morning, getting a first-hand account of how Buxton’s fractured left big toe feels now. Buxton ran about four laps around the Busch Stadium bases a half-hour earlier, simulating rounding the bases on hits and extra-base hits, and pushing off to go base-to-base.
The final decision has yet to be made, but “there’s some momentum” toward activating Buxton as soon as Thursday in Anaheim, Molitor said. “We’ll have to collect everyone’s thoughts, back in Minneapolis and here with staff and trainers, and see what we want to do, if he looks like he’s ready to go, over the next 48 hours.”
Buxton made it clear what his thoughts are. “I’m pretty excited,” the center fielder said about returning to the Twins’ lineup, which has been without him since April 12. “I’ve been out long enough. Got that itch to get back out there.”
That would mean not going on a rehab assignment to the minor leagues, something Buxton said he’s willing to do, but would prefer not to. He’s been working hard in the batting cage on his swing, and standing in as pitchers throw in the bullpen to calibrate his batting eye, and he’s ready to play again.
Molitor sounds like he’s willing, presuming Buxton meet a couple of criteria. “Physically, we want him to be at a level where he’s ready to play every day,” the manager said. “Then we’ll make a determination about how his offensive game is going to go without having played for about three weeks or so.”
Coincidentally, Buxton was alternating sprints with the Cardinals’ center fielder, Tommy Pham, who isn’t on the disabled list, but has been out of the lineup for three days with a groin strain. Neither one are playing today, but both hope to be ready by the weekend.
Joe Mauer, who has been in the starting lineup for the last 13 days and has appeared in every game since the Twins’ home opener, is getting a break today. Since Molitor wants to keep Brian Dozier in the No. 2 slot for now, Molitor simply gave Mauer’s fill-in at first base, Logan Morrison, his normal leadoff spot. It’s the first time since 2015 while with Seattle that Morrison has batted first, something he did 20 times for the Mariners.
The Twins will try to extend their winning streak to five games today, but they face a formidable task: Beating Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez, who leads the National League with a 1.40 ERA.
First pitch is at 12:15, and the Twins plan to be in southern California by dinner time. Here are the lineups for today’s game:
J. Martinez 1B
C. Martinez RHP