KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Byron Buxton walked through the Twins clubhouse Saturday with ice tightly wrapped around his left hand and wrist. He sat down at a video screen and began studying for that night’s matchup with Royals rookie righthander Jakob Junis.
Buxton’s hand might still be sore almost 10 days after he injured it while swinging a bat, in other words, but as far as he is concerned, nothing has changed about his job.
“It’s a little tough swinging a bat, but that’s just something I have to deal with,” he said. “I just want to help the team any way I can.”
Twins medical personnel have examined Buxton’s hand more than once, and the diagnosis hasn’t changed: His hamate bone is intact, the issue is nothing more than a bruise, and he is not making it worse by playing.
“It’s going to be an ongoing issue,” manager Paul Molitor said. “He wants to [continue to play], and I think it’s the right thing, to keep running him out there until we find out that something’s gone in the wrong direction in terms of worsening an injury. But we’re pretty assured that’s not the case — he’s just dealing with discomfort.”
The discomfort has hampered his swing, and Molitor fears that it made him tentative at the plate; Buxton was called out on strikes three times Friday, and he went hitless in 21 consecutive at-bats on this road trip until a fourth-inning single off Junis on Saturday. He followed that in the sixth inning with a home run, his 14th of the season.
“We saw him take a couple pitches, especially with two strikes, that was a little uncharacteristic [compared] to how he’s been playing over the past couple of months,” Molitor said. “But I still see his value in putting him out there on the defensive side.”
Buxton ran headlong into the center field wall to catch a Melky Cabrera drive Friday, saving a run. Buxton shook off the collision, but Molitor admitted that “we all cringe when he goes after certain balls.”
It’s part of the job, however. “I would say he’s more reckless, which is kind of what the position requires,” Molitor said. “You’re not going to be top shelf unless you have a little bit of that fearlessness about how you play the position.”
Miguel Sano had “a good day” at Target Field on Saturday, Molitor said, hitting on the field for the first time since fouling a ball off his shin three weeks ago.
“He’s getting closer, little by little,” Molitor said. “He took some grounders, too. He backed off running today, but … the swinging went really well, as far as hitting 60-mile-per-hour batting practice pitches.”
Molitor conceded the Twins aren’t sure how to work Sano back once he is healthy, since minor league playoffs will be over soon. Fall instructional league is a possibility, but that doesn’t start until Sept. 17 — and that’s if Florida complexes aren’t too damaged by hurricanes.
“It’s going to be a little interesting to see how it goes. The timing will be a little bit tricky, [due to] the fact that we’re not going to be able to get him any at-bats,” Molitor said.
Sano will also probably be limited to designated hitter at first.
• Lefthander Adalberto Mejia, on the disabled list since Aug. 9 because of a left arm strain, gave up one hit over five shutout innings, throwing 73 pitches in Class AA Chattanooga’s playoff game with Montgomery on Saturday night. The rookie figures to return to the Twins rotation on Thursday at home against Toronto. Chattanooga lost 2-0, forcing a decisive Game 5 Sunday; the winner will be declared Southern League co-champion.
• Rookie-level Elizabethton captured its first Appalachian League championship since 2012 on Friday, beating Pulaski 8-7 to win the best-of-three finals. It’s the Twins’ 11th Appy League title in their 44-year affiliation.