CLEVELAND – Byron Buxton rolled his suitcase to the clubhouse door Saturday, put his equipment bag on top of it, then worked his way around the room, hugging and shaking hands. The Twins outfielder is headed to the minor leagues, and it’s not certain when he’ll be back.
About an hour after one last workout on the field and batting practice in front of manager Paul Molitor, Buxton left to fly to Minneapolis. He will report to Class AAA Rochester on Monday and begin a rehab assignment with the Red Wings on Tuesday.
“Good news for us,” Molitor said of Buxton’s recovery from a fractured big toe, an injury that has progressed from lingering pain to occasional soreness.
But it’s not just Buxton’s health that has Molitor optimistic. The Twins have used this road trip to make some changes to Buxton’s swing, the manager said.
“We’ve done a little bit of tweaking,” Molitor said. “The past three to five days, that seemed to be taking fairly well. And hopefully the combination of him feeling better and having a good mind-set about where his swing is will produce some good results.”
The changes might be noticeable, Molitor said.
“Working on just making sure [he has better] balance on his lower half. He’s been collapsing a little bit too much. We’re going to try to use his posture to improve his strength as well as his [pitch] recognition.”
Buxton has 28 strikeouts and only 14 hits in his 90 at-bats this season, a .156 batting average, so the Twins will judge his rehab assignment — and decide when to bring him back to the majors — based on his hitting as much as his recovery from the toe injury.
“We told him, to take the pressure off, we’re not going to set a [return] date. We’re not going to worry about, five days or 10 days or whenever,” Molitor said. “We’ll see if we can start getting him back to the player we know he can be.”
Diets get a closer look
The Twins have an extra passenger on this road trip, one who is observing the meals on the team plane, the food offered on the postgame buffet, and the times that players snack. Rasa Troup, a former Olympic athlete and the team’s dietician, is studying how road trips affect the players’ eating habits.
“I always want to walk in their shoes,” Troup said. “I’m trying to see how they function on the road and figure out how I can help make them better athletes.”
Troup has interacted with the players at Target Field, but Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said conditions are much different away from home, and he wanted her to help point out changes that the team can make.
“Food on the road, the late-night realities of eating postgame, and what guys are eating — this is an important opportunity, because this lifestyle takes you on the road so much,” Falvey said. “When people think of nutrition sometimes, they just think of weight loss, and this isn’t that. Fueling for performance is something Rasa is working with us on, getting guys to peak perform. What’s good for sleep, what’s good for recovery, what’s good the next morning. It’s a critical part of our holistic approach to planning around the players.”
• Ervin Santana threw a bullpen session Friday in Fort Myers, Fla., and had no problems, Molitor said. But Santana is not yet throwing his slider from the mound, Molitor said, in order to keep from putting too much pressure on his surgically repaired middle finger. The righthander will throw again on Tuesday.
• Travis Blankenhorn, third baseman for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle and the Twins’ third-round draft pick in 2015, won the Florida State League home run derby on Friday night.