Byron Buxton leaves no doubt on Opening Day: "I'm playing, I'll be there"

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox
Jun 30, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) reacts after striking out against the Chicago White Sox to end the seventh inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Chicago White Sox won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after suffering what appeared to be a potentially significant injury to his left foot and a day after finding out it was “only” a mid-foot sprain, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton made it clear that a week from Friday he will be in the lineup for Minnesota’s opener against the White Sox in Chicago.

“I’m playing, I’ll be there,” Buxton said Wednesday during a video conference. “I’ll be there Tuesday.”

Buxton was talking about when the Twins will leave for Chicago. Minnesota will face the Cubs next Wednesday at Wrigley Field in an exhibition game. While manager Rocco Baldelli and the Twins medical staff will have something to say about when Buxton is back in center field, it was certainly good news that Buxton feels well enough to predict he can play in less than a week.

“We want (Miguel) Sano (who returned from COVID-19 on Wednesday), we want Buck to say they are going to be ready to go because I know they are going to work as hard as they can to do everything they need to do to be ready,” Baldelli said. “But we’re going to keep watching them as well. That’s our job. We’re going to make sure they’re all right. We’re going to put them in a situation to succeed and not do something that will put them at risk. We’re going to find that out by watching them everyday.”

Buxton, the top defensive center fielder in the game when he’s healthy and a nightmare for opponents on the bases because of his speed, suffered the injury on Monday during an intrasquad game when he fell in right-center field while tracking a ball hit by Nelson Cruz. There was no collision with the fence, there was nothing overaggressive about the approach, it was simply a fluke. Buxton was taken off Target Field on a cart.

“As I got ready to make that cut, I felt a small little pop and definitely one of those things that didn’t feel right,” Buxton said. “A kind of sharp pain immediately, and got a little numb, I guess. It kind of just freaked me out more than the play itself. It’s just something that’s unusual.”

Buxton’s injury history — he has made seven trips to the injury list in the past two years — made many fear the worst.

“That’s pretty much word for word about what I said,” Buxton said when asked if he was thinking “not again.” “It’s one of those things, obviously, just coming off that shoulder injury (that ended his 2019 season and resulted in surgery). Work hard to get back and be ready for spring training and, obviously, with the season not starting it gave me a little bit more time to get it right and do the things I needed to do this year. I’m feeling good. … That day put a dagger in things, it mentally kind of shuts everything off and you kind of want to get away from this. But once the results came in, it kind of put your mind at ease and you just try to figure out ways to tolerate it and get back on the field.”

As far as playing in the opener, Buxton said: “I’m a little sore but Opening Day I’m going to be there. Nothing is going to stop me. I (don’t have) any limits. I’m going to get it right, get ready to go and get back out there so I can do what I’ve got to do.”