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Sano wants Buxton back in majors: Teammate lobbies for outfielder’s September call-up

ARLINGTON, Texas — Eddie Rosario's strained right quadriceps won't just keep him out for a week or more until the Twins return home from this three-city road trip.

The injury would seem to open the door for center fielder Byron Buxton to receive a September call-up as soon as Saturday, Sept. 1. If it doesn't happen, however, Miguel Sano will be as disappointed as anyone.

"I don't think that's good," the Twins' third baseman said Friday. "That would be tough for me and for him and his family. I think he needs to come here and finish strong and play the last month, and that's it."

Three days after Sano was demoted all the way to Class A Fort Myers on June 14, Buxton was sent back to Triple-A Rochester on a rehab assignment that later was converted into an option. While Sano returned to the majors 44 days later, Buxton was sidetracked by a strained left wrist and only recently has begun to heat up at the plate.

Buxton, who turns 25 in December, had reeled off seven multi-hit games in his past 11 tries. Since coming off the disabled list Aug 14, Buxton was hitting .388 with a combined on-base/slugging percentage of 1.045.

"A few days ago I talked to him," Sano said. "We were talking about how he feels. He told me he feels good. He's been playing good, too. I hope he can be here (Saturday), but I don't know."

Unless Buxton accrues two more weeks of service time this season, the Twins would gain an additional year of club control through 2022. Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said this week the economic piece is "not something we're factoring in."

Sunday opener?

Depending on how the Twins come through the first two games of this series against the Texas Rangers, they could use a reliever as the so-called opener for the first time on Sunday against 45-year-old Bartolo Colon.

Left-hander Gabriel Moya and right-hander Trevor May are the leading candidates to handle that historic responsibility. The Tampa Bay Rays pioneered the approach in the majors, beginning in late May, and the Twins have been experimenting with it at their top two minor-league levels since mid-July.

Right-hander Zack Littell, among those expected to receive a September promotion, followed May to the mound the first time the Red Wings used the opener on July 22.

"We've talked about doing it more than once or twice," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Even if we decide to use the opener, I'm probably not going to want to shy away from a guy the night before if we have a chance to win and that guy can help us. We're going to have flexibility. We've looked at a few guys that we think would be good options."

Gimenez returns

The acquisition of veteran backup catcher Chris Gimenez, who had been playing at Triple-A Iowa for the Chicago Cubs, means Molitor won't have to look far the next time he needs an emergency pitcher.

Gimenez, 35, handled the role six times in 2017 and worked to a 7.20 earned-run average.

"(Willians) Astudillo will be disappointed," Molitor joked. "(Gimenez) knows it's about throwing it over and not trying to pitch. I think his versatility (helps) — being able to play third base, left field, first base and catch and hopefully not pitch."

Gimenez gave up three earned runs and a homer in his only inning of work this year for the Cubs on June 23 at Cincinnati. He joked on Twitter that he would lobby to be the Twins' inaugural opener.

Briefly

  • Reliever Matt Belisle (knee) is due to come off the disabled list once rosters expand. Belisle, who has been experimenting with a lower arm slot, threw his third session of live batting practice on Friday afternoon with no issues.
  • Shortstop Jorge Polanco (left hamstring) took swings off Belisle and was inserted back into the lineup for the first time since Sunday. Molitor talked with Polanco about being careful in his movements to avoid aggravating the injury.
  • Dominican Summer League right-hander Alex Banks, 17, was hit with a 72-game suspension after testing positive for Stanozolol. Banks, in his first pro season, had struggled to an 8.59 ERA in 14 2/3 innings for the Twins' entry this summer.
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