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Byron Buxton’s knee lands him on bench, not injured list

Star center fielder missed two big games against division rival Cleveland this week

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton fields a fly ball against the Cleveland Guardians in the first inning Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports
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The Minnesota Twins have been slotting in rest days for Byron Buxton as he manages a persistent knee issue, but Wednesday wasn’t just a typical day off for the star center fielder. And neither was Thursday.

Buxton was out of the lineup for the final two games of a three-game series against division rival Cleveland after his right knee became particularly bothersome.

“If Buck could swing and run, he would’ve played (Wednesday) and he would play today,” manager Rocco Baldelli said before Thursday’s series finale against the Guardians at Target Field. “But those are things that at the moment he’s not able to do, and we have to watch him and assess him and just see what he’s capable of every day and that’s really what it comes down to. If he was able to do those things, he’d be playing.”

Baldelli called Buxton’s injury “a severe chronic case of tendinitis which leads to severe swelling.”

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The manager said there isn’t one specific thing that causes Buxton’s knee to flare up, pointing instead to overall activity. But in instances like this one, where it’s clear Buxton cannot play, there has typically been enough quick improvement to give the Twins hope that he’ll be back shortly.

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Buxton missed five games in April with the injury after a painful slide forced him out of a game in Boston. Only one other time has he missed two consecutive games this season. The outfielder has played in 51 of the team’s 71 games (72 percent) and is on pace to play more in more than 100 games this season for only the second time in his career.

Though the knee has been bothering Buxton all season, the Twins do not have plans to place him on the injured list. After all, they have no idea how effective that might be. Instead, the Twins have been giving Buxton a day or two off each week.

“(We) don’t know if we took a month off just what that would do, if it’s going to solve the issue, if it’s just going to somewhat help or if it’s going to be something if he took significant time off, would he just be dealing with the same symptoms within a few games of returning?” Baldelli said.

Baldelli said all the imaging tests done on the knee have been run by several doctors; the consensus is that the Twins have been handling it the right way.

“Is it flaring up, or whatever you want to call it right now?” Baldelli said. “Yes, it’s probably worse at the moment than it was two weeks ago, but this is unchanged in that it’s the same thing we’ve been dealing with for two and a half months. That hasn’t changed. It hasn’t gone away and it hasn’t come close to really going away.”

Winder optioned

The Twins activated Josh Winder from his rehab assignment and optioned him to Triple-A St. Paul. Winder, who has a 3.68 earned-run average in seven outings with the Twins this season, had been on the injured list since May 21 with a right shoulder impingement.

Although the Twins optioned him on Thursday, Winder’s next start could very well come in the majors. Baldelli suggested the right-hander would be “in pretty strong consideration,” to pitch in the doubleheader the Twins will play next Tuesday in Cleveland, serving as the 27th man.

Carrying six true starters right now, Baldelli said, does not make sense as active rosters now have a cap of 13 pitchers.

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