1. Byron Buxton is going to see a shoulder specialist, and you can’t help but hold your breath.
A report in the Star Tribune said that shoulder surgery is a possibility, which would put an abrupt end to Buxton’s 2019 campaign. We’ll have more time after the evaluation to get into the hope that this year offered for Buxton’s future, the inescapable questions about his durability, and all of that.
For now, let’s focus on the present. What would that mean for the 2019 Twins? I don’t know about you and I don’t know about the Twins’ front office, but when I projected out how this thing would end, I was half-expecting a healthy Buxton for the final two weeks of the season, and then 9 innings of nightly Gold Glove centerfielding in October, plus whatever he could add with his bat after such a long layoff. Maybe that’s still true, and maybe the Twins will get unexpected good news from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a go-to shoulder surgeon in pro sports circles. For today, I believe the logical reaction is to wait and see.
Grasping at straws to find a positive to balance out the bad news Saturday that Michael Pineda was suspended and would not be with the Twins for the rest of the season, my mind shifted to Buxton. My co-host on the SKOR North Twins Show, Judd Zulgad, asked me how the Twins would replace the starting pitcher that looked like he was headed to start Game 1 or Game 2 of the A.L. Division Series.
My answer was a combination of other starting pitchers and Byron Buxton. If you made me choose between a non-suspended Pineda and a healthy Byron Buxton for 9 innings, I’d choose Buxton. Now, for those with rooting interests in the team, the hope is that the Twins still have the option of Buxton, since Pineda took himself out of the equation.
The non-waiver trade deadline is now the only trade deadline in Major League Baseball. Although as we saw this weekend, that doesn’t technically eliminate trades in September.
Ex-Twins outfielder Ryan LaMarre was traded back to the team Sunday in a swap with the Braves. That was possible because LaMarre wasn’t on Atlanta’s 40-man roster. So the Twins added another outfielder to their roster after recently adding LaMonte Wade Jr. and Ian Miller.
Byron Buxton is seeing a shoulder specialist this week in California, and when asked if Buxton would hit again this year, manager Rocco Baldelli did not say that he definitely would. He said it’s “possible.”
Max Kepler was taken out of Sunday’s game after just one plate appearance with what he described as left shoulder (scapula) pain. He’ll have further tests done Monday during the team’s scheduled off day.
Jake Cave has a groin injury, but the outfielder and the team do not sound alarmed as if it was a long-term concern. He’s on the shelf for now but Baldelli said that Cave likely will return well before the end of the regular season.
Marwin Gonzalez remains out with the abdominal issue that has put him on the shelf. If this was not September, it’s likely that Gonzalez would have been on the Injured List all along, but he could return in the not-too-distant future.
Ehire Adrianza had been dealing with an illness, and he still might be feeling the effects. But he started Sunday in a watered-down Twins lineup and he rung a double off the wall and jogged into second base just fine.
Did we miss anybody? Or is that all the outfield is dealing with right now?
With Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sanó on a strict off day, manager Rocco Baldelli said that he was not intending to use those two under any circumstances. He stayed true to that word in the 9th inning when the Twins brought the tying run to the plate and let LaMarre, who had arrived at Target Field that morning, take those swings instead of Cruz or Sanó. He struck out looking on a borderline full-count pitch from Brad Hand, and the Twins lost the game and the series. (I like LaMarre enough but that seemed like an unusual burden to place on him, a spot where the Twins chose rest-at-all-costs over an increased percentage chance of winning Sunday’s game against their primary rival.)
Days before activating Pinch-Runner-Defensive-Replacement Buxton, the Twins had hopes that he’d soon return as more than that. Although they didn’t believe his recovery would be linear after crashing into a wall with his shoulder, the Twins did hold onto optimism that Buxton’s rehab would progress to the point where he could swing a bat. He did that for one day at low-A Cedar Rapids (as a DH) before they called off that pursuit – or put it on pause – and returned Buxton the big-league club for evaluation. Soon after, he was activated on the expanded September roster in an admittedly limited capacity.
The natural question from fans after the latest frustrating circuit of excellence-and-injury is on the brain. Can the Twins ever reign in Buxton’s aggressiveness? Or would that compromise too much of what makes him great?
“Hey, it’s not only a million-dollar question, I think it’s like a fifty-million-dollar question,” Twins GM Thad Levine told us on the SKOR North Twins Show in late-August.
“Because when you talk about players who play with the ability that he plays with – we never know the answer to [the question], if you ask him to alter the way he plays the game, how will that impact what he does on the field? The hope and goal would be that it would preserve his health. But it actually could put him in jeopardy if he’s now playing the game a different way,” Levine said.
“We know how he plays when he’s left unchecked, and I think he has this amazing commitment to his team and to his fanbase, that he’s going to take any ball hit near him and record an out. The unfortunate juxtaposition of that is that if his goal is to record as many outs as he possibly can for us, sometimes he has to let the ball get into a gap, yield an extra base or two so that he can stay healthy tomorrow, the next day, and for the two weeks that are coming down the pike, so he can record more outs there. But I think that in the moment it’s really tough for him to back off that.
“It’s something we certainly have talked to him about,” Levine said. “We are reluctant to ask him to change the way he plays too much, because that may expose other concerns. But in the short term we just want to get him out there and let him be Byron. And we may try to address some of those matters in the offseason.”
Enough about the bad news that hung over Target Field this weekend. How about some good news?
Gibson is returning to a starting rotation that got rocked by the news of Pineda’s suspension over the weekend. The starting staff could use a steadying hand. And if we see the return of Good Kyle Gibson, then he has a chance to help steady that ship.
When he gets back, by the way, it will be for the first time as a father of three. The Gibsons welcomed a new addition to the family recently, and the Twins said that mom and baby are doing well.
Beyond Kyle The Pitcher, we should note that Kyle The Person is still managing the condition that landed him on the IL, ulcerative colitis. From my understanding, it’s been a difficult season for Gibson off the mound, the Twins on a personal and professional level probably hope that the outlook can improve for him as he handles his personal health.