MINNEAPOLIS — Yet another injury has waylaid Byron Buxton, and Minnesota’s speedster centre fielder will miss the rest of the season recovering from shoulder surgery that puts his readiness for spring training next year in question.
The American League Central leaders placed Buxton and his ailing left shoulder on the 60-day injured list on Tuesday, when Buxton was having an operation to repair a damaged labrum that likely will require recovery time of five to six months. So the Twins, who took a five-game lead over Cleveland into the night, will be without their best defensive player for the rest of the pennant race and beyond.
"For the early part of the year, close to halfway through the year, he was one of the best players in baseball," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I mean, you can spin it any way you want and look at the numbers any way you want. There were very few players in baseball that were more valuable than him to that point."
Buxton batted .262 with 30 doubles, four triples, 10 homers, 46 RBIs and 48 runs in only 271 at-bats, with a career-best .827 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He partially dislocated his left shoulder when he crashed into the outfield wall while making a catch on Aug. 1. After trying to rehab for the next month, with a minor league assignment cut short by discomfort, Buxton rejoined the team solely as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
Still unable to swing without pain, he was sent on Sunday to see a specialist in California, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended the procedure.
"We did it for as long as we could, but responsibly, I think the right thing to do was to get him out to see the doc and get the surgery as soon as possible," Baldelli said. "We did a pretty good job with the rehab. We took our time and gave it a shot, and he went out there and tried to swing the bat again. We knew he was still feeling not just a little bit of discomfort. He was not comfortable, really, at all. We’ve got to make sure he’s good to go moving forward."
That’s the burning question with Buxton, who won a Gold Glove in 2017, when he played in 140 games. That was the only season when Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, appeared in more than 92 games. Some of the absences have been because he was sent back to Triple-A for more hitting work, but since debuting in 2015 he has missed time to a sprained thumb, strained groin, strained wrist, broken toe and migraine headaches. This year, he went on the injured list for a bruised wrist and concussion-like symptoms before the shoulder problem.
The Twins reinstated right-hander Kyle Gibson from the injured list and promoted infielder Ronald Torreyes from Triple-A Rochester. Gibson, who last pitched on Aug. 30, has been dealing with a digestive track disease, ulcerative colitis. He is scheduled to start on Thursday.
That’s about the only positive development the Twins have had on the health front lately. They started a three-game series against Washington on Tuesday without regulars Buxton, Miguel Sano, Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler and C.J. Cron in the lineup due to various physical issues.
"We’ve dealt with things all year long. We’ve dealt with them without a ton of discussion or fanfare or whatever you want to call it," Baldelli said. "There were a lot of times when we didn’t have any players to play, really, that were healthy, and we continued to go out there, and the guys duked it out and fought it out and continued to win games. We’ll continue to do that."