CLEVELAND – After fighting off migraines, breaking a toe and injuring his wrist, would Byron Buxton be better off starting his offseason next week and putting 2018 behind him? That’s a calculation the Twins are considering, with roster expansion looming this weekend.
Buxton, who batted .156 in 28 injury-plagued games with the Twins but is 18-for-48 (.375) with nine extra-base hits since being activated by Class AAA Rochester in mid-August, is one of three position players in Rochester who is on the Twins’ 40-man roster — fellow outfielders Zack Granite and Johnny Field are the others — a fact that normally might make him an obvious choice for promotion in September. But Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer, said Wednesday that no decision has yet been made about the Gold Glove center fielder.
“There’s been a combination of things that have been challenging,” Falvey said. “Our focus should exclusively be on what we think is the best for Byron long-term, and that’s where it’s going to be.”
Spending September in the majors would also give Buxton more than three years of major-league service time, which would keep him on track, under current rules, to be a free agent after the 2021 season, rather than 2022. But Falvey insisted payroll considerations are playing no part in the Twins’ deliberations.
“That’s not something we’re factoring in. We want to talk through all the reasons, again, just rooted back in what we think is the best for Byron long-term,” Falvey said. “We’re going to take that approach with this decision. No different.”
Keeping rookies Jake Cave and Tyler Austin in the lineup as much as possible, in order to fully evaluate them, is a consideration as well.
Manager Paul Molitor said the Twins plan to call up a pitcher or two on Saturday, and complete their roster expansion Tuesday, after the International League season ends Monday. The Twins are leaning toward using a six-man rotation in September, and he would like to add a couple more arms to the bullpen.
Molitor has kept in touch with Buxton, both by phone and text message, and said he’s enjoying Buxton’s late-season surge. “He’s been on a good run. Multi-hit games, and the extra-base hits,” the manager said. “He’s still pulling the ball probably at a very high rate. Seems we saw that a lot when he was up here, too. But he’s doing OK. It’s fun to watch him get hits.”
Even after making six trades in a 10-day span last month, Falvey remains attentive to the possibility of more as Friday’s postseason-roster deadline approaches.
“We’re going to listen if teams call,” Falvey said. “Right now, it’s more likely than not that you’ll have a conversation about somebody. That’s been my history on every Aug. 31, honestly.”
Gardenhire — the other one — to join team
In addition to players, major league teams are allowed to add an additional coach during September, and Falvey said the Twins intend to rotate that responsibility among several coaches in their system. The order hasn’t been finalized, but Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire revealed one to Detroit reporters: Class A Cedar Rapids manager Toby Gardenhire will be on Molitor’s staff when the Twins visit Detroit on Sept. 17-19, assuming the Kernels’ Midwest League playoff run is over by then.
“That’s the best and worst part, because now there’s going to be a lot of crap flying,” the elder Gardenhire said, according to the Detroit News. His wife, Carol, “might be rooting for them, and that’s really going to bother me. This is really cool. He’s worked a long time for this.”
One more day off
A pregame thunderstorm kept Jorge Polanco from testing his sore left hamstring on the field, so Molitor chose to play it safe and give the shortstop another day off. “[Tuesday] he still had a little more specific tightness in that left hamstring,” Molitor said of the minor injury, which forced Polanco out of Sunday’s game with the A’s. “It seems to me after a couple of days he still has a little soreness in that area, so there was probably a little something that happened in there.”