MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton traveled to Los Angeles on Sunday to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a shoulder specialist, and the Twins hope to get further clarity on the center fielder’s situation. Buxton hasn’t been a full-time player since he subluxated (dislocated the shoulder joint) in his left shoulder Aug. 1 in Miami.
While Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Buxton’s visit was pre-planned, and was not an indication of any setback, the Star Tribune reported that the Twins were bracing for the possibility that Buxton will have season-ending surgery before he returns. There is a chance ElAttrache will recommend surgery and, if he does, it will be done this week in California, according to the paper.
Buxton did return to the team, as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, when rosters expanded on Sept. 1 but he hasn’t swung a bat in a Major League game since the first day of August.
Buxton originally was scheduled for a rehab assignment in late-August, and after one game in low-A Cedar Rapids as a DH, Buxton’s rehab was put on pause and he returned to the Twins for evaluation. Since then, he’s worked with strength coaches and team trainers to strengthen the area around the shoulder, with the hope that it will allow him more range of motion and less pain and restriction.
MAX KEPLER TO BE EVALUATED
Kepler was in the starting lineup and leading off Sunday against the Cleveland Indians. He made one trip to the plate, popped out, and was taken out of the game.
The Twins announced that Kepler’s was taken out because of “upper-chest discomfort,” and the team is considering Kepler day-to-day. The starting rightfielder said after Sunday’s game that the injury is “concerning” and he described the pain in the back of his left shoulder when he throws a ball and swings a bat.
“When I punch through [during the swing], that extension felt like a knot, locked up. … “It’s concerning, but tomorrow we’re going to do some scans and we’ll from there,” Kepler said.
Kepler said that he’s played through this particular issue for months. But that it’s worsened recently, including a flare up on the latest road trip when the team was in Boston.
Ian Miller entered and took over centerfield duties. LaMonte Wade Jr. slid over to right field to replace Kepler defensively.
The Twins also traded for Ryan LaMarre in a deal with the Braves on Sunday. The outfield depth has been stretched quite thin with injuries to Kepler, Buxton, Jake Cave and Marwin Gonzalez.
SANO UNAVAILABLE SUNDAY
Nelson Cruz petitioned to be in the starting lineup Sunday, according to Baldelli. But the manager and team wanted to rest the 39-year-old slugger for another day ahead of Monday’s off day. So when the ninth inning plate appearance came around, with two runners on base and a three-run deficit against closer Brad Hand, you had a pretty solid idea that Cruz (wrist) was not going to be the one taking swings.
It was less apparent why Miguel Sano wouldn’t be called in to pinch-hit in that situation. The Twins put two runners on base with two outs for Ryan LaMarre, the former Twins outfielder who rejoined the team Sunday morning following a minor league trade with the Braves.
But LaMarre stayed in to take those cuts and eventually struck out to end the game on a borderline full-count pitch.
Where was Sano?
“Ryan was the only available right-handed hitter that we had available at the time,” Baldelli said. “That’s not to say in another world we’re not hitting him in different situations at other times. Sano was not going to be available tonight, he’s had some back soreness,” Baldelli said. “He was not going to get out there today under any circumstances.”