Mientkiewicz followed him to the outfield, where Buxton stood, stone-faced.
“I can’t play you when you’re hurting like this,” Mientkiewicz said.
“I remember him saying that,” Buxton said. “I don’t remember anything else.”
“He wants to be known as a kid who plays through everything,” Mientkiewicz said. “He doesn’t want to hear about being the top prospect or us having to take care of him. He only wants to hear that he can play. That’s what’s going to make him great. He craves being out there, and he knows that his team is better with him at 50 percent than someone else at 100 percent.”
Injuries haven’t diminished their promise. ESPN analyst Keith Law recently ranked Buxton, despite his badly sprained wrist, as the best prospect in baseball for the second consecutive year. Sano is ranked anywhere from third to 14th, depending on the source.
Rankings are no more comforting to Buxton than an ice pack. For the first time since middle school, he’s not spending his summer evenings playing baseball.
“It’s devastating,” he said.
Most days, he wakes at 6:15 a.m., makes breakfast and heads to the ballpark. His personal mantra is “if you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late.”
“I like getting there early and joking around with the guys,” he said. “I don’t like to be in a rush.”
He’ll undergo treatment for his wrist, and sit in the hot tub “if they’ll let me.” At 10 a.m., he’ll take the field with Sano and throw.
Then he’ll work out in the weight room and undergo more treatment. By midday he’s done.
“It’s been a quiet summer,” he said.
Videos instead of games
They sit next to each other on the couch at Buxton’s condo, playing video games.
The games vary, but Sano insists they always come back to PlayStation’s “MLB The Show.”
Sometimes they play the 2014 version, sometimes the one from 2010 that featured future teammate Joe Mauer on the cover.
“I’m better at video games,” Sano says.
“He says he is,” Buxton says with a smile.