Buxton’s playing time still carefully managed by Twins

·5 min read

LOS ANGELES — In what has become a common occurrence this season, Byron Buxton was not in the starting lineup as the Twins looked to avoid a two-game sweep against the Dodgers on Wednesday.

The franchise player has struggled because of a right knee injury the entire season and has appeared in 83 of the team's 110 games so far in 2022, 52 of those in center field. And while he has avoided the injured list, the patellar tendinitis has not gone away despite regular days off and a platelet-rich plasma injection during the All-Star break.

Buxton reaggravated his knee when the Twins played in San Diego about 1 ½ weeks ago. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Buxton landed awkwardly making a jump at the wall that set the recovery back because of some swelling.

Buxton played in center field in each of those three games against the Padres: six innings in the first game, two in the next after starting the game as the designated hitter and eight in the last. Since then, Buxton has played only one inning in the outfield, in Sunday's 3-2, 10-inning loss to Toronto.

He's been the designated hitter in four games since the Padres series, including Tuesday's 10-3 loss to the Dodgers. Buxton was 2-for-4 in that game, including a two-run homer with the game already well out of hand in the eighth inning.

The Twins didn't play Monday and also won't Thursday. And Buxton sitting out of the lineup has been strategic to align with those.

"These days off we've had this week combined with the off days [from the lineup are] meant to try to get him back to be able to play in the outfield," Baldelli said. "We're also going to be possibly facing three lefties in Anaheim, too. We're making sure we can get the most out of Byron. He wants to be out there in the outfield as soon as possible. This is just something we have to do."

Baldelli said the team at one point considered giving Buxton six consecutive days off since the Padres series, combining off days for the team and rest days for Buxton. But having Buxton at least hit Sunday against lefthanded starter Julio Urias — as well as against the 76-33 Dodgers, the best team in baseball — felt like the right call.

Younger players such as Nick Gordon and Gilberto Celestino have admirably filled in for Buxton in center field, but there's no doubt Buxton's athleticism, speed and experience are hard to replace or replicate.

"This is all pointing toward him playing center field again as soon as we can get him back in the outfield," Baldelli said. "If we DH most games going forward, he's not going to see the outfield. The only way to get him in the outfield is to get him off his feet for a period of time."

House of Scully

On Aug. 2, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully died at age 94 at his home in Los Angeles. Scully was an iconic voice for the Dodgers for nearly 70 years in Brooklyn and SoCal. He remains the longest-tenured broadcaster with a single team in all of professional sports, calling his final game in 2016.

Dodger Stadium, where the Twins have played the past two games, has nods to Scully everywhere. The press box bears his name, and fans frequently stop by to take pictures in front of it. A blue entrance sign reads "Welcome to Dodger Stadium," with the address 1000 Vin Scully Ave. emblazoned below.

That sign is currently surrounded with bouquets of flowers, candles, balloons, Dodgers memorabilia, handwritten notes and drawings, all paying tribute to the legend.

Baldelli said he never had a chance to meet Scully, but playing the Dodgers so soon after his death has given the manager time to reflect on what Scully meant not only to this town and team but to all of baseball.

"The one thing you do get a feel for when you're talking about the Dodgers is: He is the Dodgers," Baldelli said. "… People now associate their experiences in the game, all the emotions that go with it, to him and listening to him. He's led people through journeys in baseball and their lives and so many other things, and you do truly, when you step in your car and start driving up the way and see those things and the love and the connection he had with Dodgers fans everywhere … it's not something you may ever see again. It's been a very special thing."

Sanchez starts scholarship

While the Twins were busy just ahead of the trade deadline making deals, Gary Sanchez was also making an investment. But this one was off the field.

The catcher started a $30,000 "Swing for the Fences" Scholarship along with Bold.org, which will help students of color in Minnesota pursue their educational endeavors. The three winners, announced at a future Twins game, will each receive $10,000. All Black, Brown and Asian students in high school or college that are living in Minnesota can apply by writing an essay to Sanchez to explain challenges they faced and how they are overcoming them. The deadline is Aug. 28.

Sanchez, who came to the Twins from the Yankees in a spring training trade, didn't do this previously in New York. But he said the welcome he received from the Twins inspired him to want to give back to the community. After some discussions with his agent, the scholarship idea came to fruition.

"I just feel like the connection with the community, I haven't spent a lot of time off the field in the community, but I hear it's a great community. I want to support them," Sanchez said. "And hopefully keep this relationship with the ballclub for the rest of the season and maybe next year, if I'm here."

The Dominican Republic native added he's especially happy to be helping kids.

"Every time I go to sign autographs," Sanchez said, "I think about ideas of how I can help those [in need] in the community."