The Twins on Tuesday did what they have been forced to do many times in recent years — move forward without popular yet oft-injured center fielder Byron Buxton.
Buxton has been diagnosed with a left midfoot sprain, and it is unclear when he will be allowed to resume baseball activities. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli indicated that Buxton’s injury is not serious. For example, Buxton was able to walk on the foot without any cast or boot a day after being injured in Monday’s intrasquad game at Target Field.
It’s also unclear how much recovery time is needed for him to run normally, so no timetable has been set.
“It was a good day today,” Baldelli said Tuesday. “It was helpful to get all the results back. Obviously, we avoided any sort of structural issues with those results. As far as setting expectations, we are going to play it day by day. We’re going to make sure that Buck can get out there and run like himself.
“First of all, Buck would probably play with anything and say that he was good. But being the type of player that he is — someone who is going to have to take advantage of his legs, his athleticism — we want to make sure going into the season that he’s OK. So we are going to keep assessing him, getting him treated in the training room. He did feel a lot better once we were able to talk with the docs, get the assessment and get him here. He was in good spirits [Tuesday], as was everyone else around here upon hearing that news, and hopefully we see him out there soon.”
Still, this is another layer of mystery and frustration for a club and player who have had to deal with several injuries throughout his career.
A midfoot sprain means that Buxton injured the ligaments in the middle part of his foot, which can occur when athletes cut or twist on that foot. That’s what appeared to happen Monday when Buxton attempted to change directions to catch a fly ball hit to deep center field by Nelson Cruz. Buxton’s left foot twisted and he dropped to the ground in pain.
A midfoot sprain isn’t common in baseball, happening more often to athletes in other sports. New York Giants tight end Evan Engram missed the rest of the season last year after suffering a midfoot sprain in Week 9. Sacramento forward Marvin Bagley Jr. suffered the injury Dec. 26 against the Timberwolves, missed eight games, returned for five games, aggravated the injury and was out of action from Jan. 20 until the league shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously, when Byron goes out there and plays for us, for the Twins, he does special work,” said righthander Jose Berrios, who was on the mound at the time of the injury. “He’s got his five tools. He can help any team for sure. If he doesn’t start the season with us, that’s going to hurt us. Right now, we need to take it day by day and pray for him and try to get him back quickly.”
The Twins have plenty of experience playing baseball without Buxton.
Buxton played 140 games in 2017 — the only season so far in which he has played in more than 92 games. His injury history goes back to 2014 when he hurt his left wrist while at Class A Fort Myers. Since then he has been unable to avoid the injured list. He’s injured both wrists, broken his left big toe, strained a groin muscle, tore his labrum, suffered two concussions and dealt with a migraine. He’s been injured while sliding into bases, while diving for balls, while running into walls, running into a teammate and swinging a bat. The Twins list 12 Buxton injuries in the 2020 media guide — and it doesn’t include the concussion he suffered when he collided with Mike Kvasnicka while at Class AA New Britain.
He’s a gifted player unable to display his gifts on a regular basis.
“Buck does everything right,” Baldelli said after the injury Monday. “Buck handles his preparation. He does everything right on the field. He plays the game exactly the way you would hope one of your young stars would play the game. That’s who he is. Because of that all of his teammates feed off of him. He’s a favorite in the clubhouse because of the way he plays.
“He didn’t do anything wrong out there [Monday]. It was just a misstep in the outfield and that’s really the only way I would describe it. There are guys because of their athleticism and the way they play the game, they’re going to be more at risk for different things. [Monday]was kind of an off-chance misstep.”
But Buxton will miss more time in the immediate future.