DETROIT – The start of the Twins season has been disappointing, but Byron Buxton diverted attention as the sparkling outlier.
But now the Twins' base-stealing, homer-robbing, hard-hitting star won't be around for at least a couple of weeks.
The center fielder went on the 10-day injured list Friday because of a right hip sprain, which a magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed. While the injury isn't the most severe Grade 3, which would indicate a complete tear of the hip flexor, it's still serious enough to require some dedicated recovery time.
"There's no way around it," manager Rocco Baldelli said before the Twins opened a series against the Tigers. "It's not something that can be played through or even discussed. So he's going to be out for a bit.
"We're not talking about anything that's going to be months or anything like that but we're talking about something that's bare minimum going to take this 10-day IL stint, if not, probably more a discussion of weeks than days."
Baldelli said the reigning American League player of the month shouldn't require surgery after hurting himself in Thursday's 4-3 loss to Texas at Target Field. Buxton didn't run at top speed after hitting a seventh-inning grounder, then pulled up awkwardly at first base two innings later after hitting another grounder. The 27-year-old walked slowly to the Twins dugout and left the game.
Without him, the Twins lose not only perhaps the best defensive center fielder in the game but also their most reliable batter. Buxton is hitting .370 with nine home runs and 10 doubles.
The Twins replaced Buxton on the roster by calling up Trevor Larnach from Class AAA St. Paul. The 24-year-old, who was the Twins' first-round pick (20th overall) in 2018 out of Oregon State, had two home runs in three games for the Saints during their season-opening series at Omaha.
"I never, ever want to ever make my debut based off someone getting hurt," Larnach said. "That's, like, the worst thing possible. But this is where we're at. And I wish him nothing but a speedy recovery and great success, because he's just been unbelievable."
Lefthander Brandon Waddell was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
Injuries have marred Buxton's career dating back to 2014, two years after the Twins made him the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Since making his major league debut, he had a sprained thumb in 2015; a knee contusion and back spasms in 2016; a groin strain and migraines in 2017; a fractured toe, sprained wrist and migraines in 2018; myriad woes in 2019, including season-ending labrum surgery; shoulder inflammation last season; and he missed a couple of games in April because of a hamstring strain.
Jake Cave started at center field Friday against the Tigers, though Baldelli also said right fielder Max Kepler will play there as well, as he has done in past years when Buxton has been hurt.
Buxton is just the latest in a string of recent injuries, with both infielder Luis Arraez (concussion) and first baseman Alex Kirilloff (wrist) also on the IL. Third baseman Josh Donaldson and starting first baseman Miguel Sano have also spent time out because of injuries as well. Kepler, outfielder Kyle Garlick and shortstop Andrelton Simmons were sidelined by COVID-19.
"It's been a little frustrating, that's for sure," Garlick said. "Those are a couple of our starters, and then Kirilloff was just starting to get hot. It's tough to see all three of them go down. You can't really take it too lightly."
Baldelli said Buxton's carefree nature took a hit with yet another injury.
"He's down in general. There's no way around that," Baldelli said. "He's dealt with a lot over the years, he continues to deal with it. Honestly, he deals with a lot of this stuff and with a lot of grace. But it takes a lot out of him, and that's understandable. You deal with these things over and over again, and you handle things the right way all the time, and you don't get the result you're looking for.