Byron Buxton flew to Los Angeles on Sunday to have his sore left shoulder examined, and the Twins braced for the possibility that the center fielder will undergo season-ending surgery before returning.
Buxton had an appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who has operated on Tom Brady, Klay Thompson, Kobe Bryant and Clayton Kershaw, among other well-known clients, to determine if the subluxation — a dislocation of the shoulder joint — he suffered in a collision with the outfield wall in Miami on Aug. 1 requires an operation to fully heal.
If ElAttrache recommends surgery, the procedure will be done this week in California, according to two sources with knowledge of the plan, and Buxton’s season will be short-circuited for a second year in a row. The 25-year-old has started 78 games this season — exactly three times as many as in a similarly injury-plagued 2018, but far from what the Twins had hoped.
“He obviously has something going on in” his shoulder, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s not like he’s completely symptom-free.”
Buxton has been unable to swing a bat without discomfort, even six weeks after the initial collision, so the Twins, while still holding on to hopes for a return this year — “It’s possible,” Baldelli said, if ElAttrache recommends a non-surgical recovery — have begun thinking in terms of 2020 with Buxton, too.
“It was something we wanted to make sure we got done now,” Baldelli said of sending Buxton to a specialist. “He says he’s pretty good, but we’re going to see what the doctor says and see what the true prognosis is.”
Gibson back Thursday
The stadium lights were out and the sky was growing dark when Kyle Gibson headed to the bullpen Sunday. He threw his normal bullpen session, an important step toward his return from ulcerative colitis.
Gibson will return to action Thursday against Washington, Baldelli said, adding, “This will allow Gibby to get a little time, back in his routine.”
It also give the Twins more time to consider their pitching plans as they deal with the absence of Michael Pineda, socked with a 60-game drug suspension Saturday. Baldelli has used Randy Dobnak as an opener twice in a week, but he said the team has made no decision about how to replace Pineda.
Gibson has been kept busy off the field during his recuperation, too. His wife, Elizabeth, delivered the couple’s third child, a baby girl, on Friday.
Max Kepler first felt the sensation, a “knot” near his left shoulder blade, months ago, but kept on playing. But the condition gradually got worse, and this week, became enough to keep him off the diamond.
“It’s irritated. It comes, it goes. But I think I irritated it on some throws” in the past week, he said after being removed in the second inning Sunday as a precautionary measure. “It’s concerning, but tomorrow, we’re going to do some scans, and we’ll see.”
The tightness affects his swing, Kepler said, because it prevents him from following through. “When my backside punches through, my back hand comes through and the extension feels like a knot, locked up,” the outfielder said. “I’ve been playing through it [for] a long time.”
• Ryan LaMarre, who spent four months as the Twins’ fourth outfielder in 2018, was re-acquired for cash from Atlanta, taking Pineda’s roster spot. LaMarre, who could be traded because he wasn’t on the Braves’ 40-man roster, hit .311 with nine home runs at Class AAA this year and won’t be eligible for the postseason.
• LaMonte Wade Jr., who has seven walks and been hit by two pitches in 18 plate appearances, collected his first big-league hit, an RBI infield single, in the seventh inning. “You actually feel like a big-leaguer now,” he said.