FORT MYERS, FLA. – Top Twins prospect Byron Buxton has returned to the field, although it’s for extended spring training games.
Buxton, the consensus top prospect in baseball going into the season, has been idle since March 16 because of a sprained left wrist suffered diving for a ball. The area affected is called the pisotriquetral joint, known to be slow to heal, and five weeks later, the outfielder is just getting back to action.
He was scheduled to open the season at Class AA New Britain, but the injury has forced him to start spring training all over again.
“That’s exactly what it feels like,” Buxton said late last week. “It’s [been] pretty tough. It’s frustrating. Seeing all the guys out there, and you can’t go out there and play.”
That changed Friday, when Buxton played three innings in an extended spring training game. He went 0-for-3 with a walk Monday. The plan is for Buxton to build up to nine innings, then join Class A Fort Myers for several games. Once the Twins determine he is ready, he will move to New Britain. He might need a couple nine-inning extended spring training games before he plays for Fort Myers, where he ended last season.
“The biggest jump is from High-A to Double-A,” Brad Steil, Twins director of minor league operations, said of the move from Fort Myers to New Britain. “We want to make sure he is ready for that level when he gets there. The players on that team will have had almost a half-season of experience when he gets there.”
The Twins are feeling better about a couple of middle infield prospects at Fort Myers.
Second baseman Levi Michael, their first-round pick in 2011, has battled injuries and inconsistency. But he is hitting .289 with five doubles and has played well in the field for the Miracle. His offensive potential is not on display yet, as his on-base percentage is .337, and he’s 0-for-2 in stolen bases. But the Twins are just pleased that he looks capable at the plate.
It’s time for Michael, 23, to start making a move up the ladder after two-plus seasons with the Miracle.
“Levi Michael is playing as well as he has in a long time,” Steil said. “That’s encouraging. He’s being aggressive, playing solid in the field, swinging the bat pretty good.”
Jorge Polanco, 20, is getting a chance to prove he can play shortstop. He is hitting .364 with two homers and 15 RBI in 23 games. His first home run came Thursday — a grand slam — and was followed with a solo shot Friday.
Defensively, he has made 11 errors. Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz said many of them come from Polanco dropping his arm when he throws and having the ball sail. That’s something he should be able to correct.
Miguel Sano, recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, stretches on the field before workouts, then spends the rest of his day conditioning, doing rehabilitation-related exercises. He is several weeks away from being able to throw.
“I’m going to make sure I’m going to come back ready,” said the third baseman, who had a chance to debut in the majors sometime this season before tearing an elbow ligament during a spring training intrasquad game.
Sano is out for the season but is expected to play in offseason leagues. He said if he is guaranteed daily playing time, he could spend the offseason in the Dominican winter league. If that’s not possible, he will split time between the Arizona Fall League and winter ball.
Sano said he weighs 257 pounds — and he carries it well on his 6-4 frame.