CHICAGO – Byron Buxton joined the Twins on Friday, a sign that he is ready to contribute after suffering a left midfoot sprain on July 13.
The center fielder spent recent days working out at the St. Paul Saints’ CHS Field, facing live pitching while getting his running in. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has been getting updates, and he would not summon him to the Windy City unless Buxton was able to run like the wind again.
“So I even got a video this morning of him running, and he was running very well,” Baldelli said, “It’s hard to tell when you’re not there in person exactly what you’re looking at on an iPhone video, but I’ll tell you what: He’s probably running at a well-above-average clip for a major league player.”
A midfoot sprain can require a lengthy recovery, but Buxton was able to walk on the foot with just a minor wrap on it a day later, which was an encouraging sign. One hurdle he faces is being comfortable with changing directions on the foot — which is how he was injured.
But Baldelli seemed confident Buxton is about ready to play. They would not have had him drive to Chicago if he was unable to play during this series. Buxton arrived around 5 p.m. Friday and was on the field for pregame activities.
“Can I tell you it’s 100 percent or pretty close to it? Not really,” Baldelli said. “But I thought he looked in great shape. He’s been getting continuous [at-bats] over in St. Paul ... so overall, it’s been encouraging. He’s had no setbacks at all.”
The rest of the campers
While the Twins have started their season, the remainder of the 60-man camp will stay in the Twin Cities, working out at CHS Field.
With no minor league season, teams are limited in terms of getting their extra players game experience and, to a certain extent, skill development.
“League rules do not allow for your depth squads to travel or play against other teams,” Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said, “so we will coordinate regular intrasquad games to keep pitchers stretched out and fielders getting multiple innings in the field.”
The extra group includes several Twins top prospects such as shortstop Royce Lewis; outfielders Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker; infielder Travis Blankenhorn; catcher Ryan Jeffers; and righthander Jhoan Duran.
Getting that timing down
Instead of playing games against other teams, clubs had to prepare for the shortened season through a series of intrasquad games with an exhibition game or two added just before the season started.
The Twins, in a few of those games, had groups of four hitters hit against their pitchers rather than a nine-man lineup. For instance, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver and Ehire Adrianza would hit over and over again. A couple of them could get two at-bats an inning if that pitcher couldn’t get three outs right away.
Donaldson liked the format and feels his swing is where he wants it at the start of the season.
“I thought it was very much beneficial for both of us,” he said. “I mean I think for a couple reasons. I think for us to be able to give feedback to a pitcher and two, you’re not having to face a guy on the other team that may be trying to make a big first impression or it’s kind of speeding up on him and worrying about 97 coming at your head or anything like that.
“There was a feel, there was an intent there to what we were doing, and I felt like I was able to get more at-bats throughout this intrasquad and more regularly than I would throughout a normal spring training.”
• The Twins announced during Friday’s game that righthander Randy Dobnak will start Saturday’s game instead of veteran lefthander Rich Hill, whose Twins debut will be pushed back.
• First baseman Miguel Sano, when asked if his swing is all the way back yet: “I don’t know if I’m 100 percent, but I’m ready to play. I’ll go down there and try to hit the ball and do what I need to do.”