The Twins have sketched out Byron Buxton's road back to the big leagues. They're keeping him out of the express lane.
Buxton, who sprained ligaments in his left thumb during a game on June 23, then went on the disabled list two days later, could miss another month as he prepares to return, though General Manager Terry Ryan said that timeline "might be a bit of a stretch."
Still, it's clear the Twins are taking no chances with their top prospect, who went 7-for-37 in a two-week debut with the team last month.
"When you [get ready to come back], you're going to do it conservatively," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's a process. We talked about [being out] 4-6 weeks, and it looks like it's going to be all that before he gets a chance to play."
All that and more. The plan, as worked out with Buxton, athletic trainer Dave Pruemer and Twins officials, calls for the 21-year-old outfielder to do resistance drills underwater, which he began Thursday, then advancing to hitting off a tee and doing flip drills, where he hits pitches tossed from 10 feet away, this weekend. If all goes well, Molitor said, Buxton could take batting practice on the field next Thursday or Friday, "and then we'll see how he responds."
The next step, Molitor said, would be a few days at the Twins' Florida headquarters in Fort Myers, where he could take batting practice against pitchers throwing 90 mph, not the standard 65-mph BP speed. "That's the right thing to do, because we want him to see some pitching before he goes on a rehab," Ryan said of the unusual detour. "He's been out for awhile."
Once Buxton is comfortable, an official rehab stint would begin, with the outfielder assigned to one of the Twins' minor-league teams.
Ryan said he hasn't decided where Buxton will go, but said quality of pitching would be an important consideration, making Class AAA Rochester his most likely destination. Rehab assignments are limited to 21 days, and Ryan said "it'll be a lengthy rehab because he hasn't played for so long."
Still, the Twins hope Buxton can return before September.
"For me, there's always optimism, being young, that it might get expedited a little bit," Molitor said.
• Saturday was Brian Dozier bobblehead night at Target Field, and the team's stockpile of 10,000 toys were gone more than an hour before game time — a fact that seemed to amaze the model. "I can't believe people wait in line for one," Dozier said. The All-Star second baseman said he liked that the bobblehead isn't wearing a cap or helmet.
"Kind of like [Eduardo] Nunez," he joked of his teammate, known for losing his helmet on the bases.
• The Twins signed righthander Michael Bowden, a 28-year-old pitcher with six years of major-league experience with the Red Sox and Cubs, on Saturday and assigned him to Rochester, a move to add depth to the team's Triple-A pitching staff.
• The Twins have asked MLB to review the scoring of a play last Saturday in Anaheim. With Albert Pujols on first in the sixth inning, Kyle Gibson fielded a ground ball by Erick Aybar, whirled and threw wildly to second base. The play was ruled a fielder's choice, but the Twins are asking it be changed to an error on Gibson — who has never committed a fielding error in his career — and the run that scored later changed to an unearned run.