Twins aren’t throwing in towel on Byron Buxton return

The Saints’ roster will be loaded with Twins players for its final homestand of the season next week. Among those expected to make rehab appearances at CHS Field are Brock Stewart, Nick Gordon, Joey Gallo and Chris Paddack.

Probably not Byron Buxton, though.

The Twins aren’t ready to shut down their 2022 all-star center fielder but time is running out on the regular season. Buxton hasn’t played for the Twins since Aug. 1 because of hamstring and knee issues, the latest of which is inflammation in the medial plica of his right knee, Nick Paparesta said Wednesday before a noon start against the Tampa Bay Rays at Target Field.

Buxton made two rehab appearances with St. Paul in the first week of September, once as the designated hitter and once as the center fielder, his first game on the field this season. But he was pulled from the second game with knee pain the team initially believed was patellar tendinitis. An MRI exam revealed plica inflammation, and Buxton received a cortisone shot on Sunday, Paparesta said.

“His main, chief discomfort and complaint is basically bending and rotating on that back knee, which, as most of you may have figured out, is called hitting,” Paparesta said. “We need to make sure that’s cleared up and he feels strong and confident in that before we get rolling ahead.”

Asked if the Twins are nearing a decision on whether to shut down Buxton and concentrate on getting him back healthy next spring, manager Rocco Baldelli said, “I think the answer’s going to be yes, but we’re just not at the point of making any sort of decisions right now.”

The Twins have picked up steam of late and started Wednesday having won 7 of 11 games this month and leading the American League Central by 7½ games over second-place Cleveland. They also seem to have a surfeit of designated hitter candidates with second half emergence of rookies such as Edouardo Julien and Matt Wallner.

But Buxton, when healthy, is one of the Twins’ best few players. In 85 games this season, he has 17 home runs, 42 RBIs and 49 runs scored. The question facing the Twins is whether he has the time to regain his health before the regular-season ends Oct. 1 and a likely postseason begins days later.

“Buck is not back to the point where he’s playing in rehab games, so until he’s back playing in rehab games, there’s no real question to answer,” Baldelli said. “Once he’s back playing for a period of time and has gotten X number of at-bats, then we start asking different questions, we start talking about different things.

“We’re not at that point yet, and we’re not a day or two from that question.”

Asked if there is time to get Buxton ready to play again this season, Paparesta said, “My impression will be that he’s going to play again this year and he’ll be healthy and play next year.”

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