Byron Buxton was on the fast track to the majors until a wrist injury sidelined him. He's going through the lull with another injured prospect, Miguel Sano.
Second in a series. Read Part One here.
Fort Myers, Fla. – Two of the best young baseball players in the world stand on a practice field, stretching. There is little else they can do. ¶ They have been linked by age and reputation ever since one became the consensus top prospect in baseball, and the other became perhaps the most fearsome power hitter in the minor leagues. Someday, they should grace the cover of the game-day program at Target Field. Maybe they’ll even stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today, they work out in anonymity, on the last field at the Twins’ minor league complex, wading through the invisible fog of Florida humidity months after they expected to depart.
After stretching, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano jog onto the field to play catch, but bring only one glove.
Wearing Twins caps, shorts and cleats, the injured prospects stand opposite a minor league pitcher, who throws the ball toward Sano. Sano gloves it and flips it gently to Buxton, who snags it with his right hand and fires the ball back to the pitcher.
“It’s quite funny at times,” Buxton said. “He always wants to throw the ball, and he can’t. It’s weird for me, because I don’t have a glove weighing down this hand.”
They step back every few throws. After 20 minutes, Buxton’s baseball activity for the day is over. Sano will continue, by sitting on a stool as a coach hits him ground balls.
No spectators watch, and no one asks for autographs. Someday, they may be two of the most recognized faces in baseball. On this day in early June, you would have to know their faces, or their unique frames, to differentiate them from the more anonymous Twins minor leaguers.
“It’s strange, two top prospects for the Twins being hurt,” Sano said. “But that’s the way it is.”
By now, Sano, a massive third baseman, was expected to be on the cusp of the big leagues, and Buxton, a fleet center fielder, was expected to be right behind him, the way he often catches up to teammates on the basepaths.
Instead, it takes two of them to perform the rudimentary ritual taken for granted by millions of Little Leaguers every day.
Sano underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow this spring. He is not expected to play this season. Buxton injured his left wrist in a minor league spring training game March 16, then re-injured the wrist May 8.
Twins farm director Brad Steil said Buxton won’t swing a bat until all of the soreness in his wrist is gone. Then he will need a couple of weeks before playing in extended spring training games, and if he remains healthy he would begin playing for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle.
Doug Mientkiewicz, the former Twin who manages the Miracle, has jokingly told Sano to be ready to be his designated hitter in the playoffs, but it’s more likely Sano won’t play until this winter in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s just a waiting game,” Steil said.
Buxton is not yet allowed to wear a fielding glove, much less batting gloves.
“I really can’t pick up anything heavier than my phone, or a video game controller,” he said. “I definitely can’t lift weights or swing a bat.”
So Buxton and Sano while away the summer, stuck in Fort Myers during the rainy season, betrayed by the very physiques that embody hope for a struggling franchise.