Twins’ center fielder Byron Buxton to rehab knee in St. Paul

Byron Buxton is nearing a rehab assignment, a sign that the inflammation in his right knee has calmed and the Twins’ center fielder is close to a return.

Buxton has been on the injured list since May 3 after his knee, which he has twice had offseason surgery on, flared up while running the bases two days earlier against the Chicago White Sox. He is scheduled to play in games on Wednesday and Thursday in St. Paul with the Triple-A Saints.

He said the knee now feels “normal,” and that while he’s running, he’s trying not to overdo it since he felt the pain.

“It could be worse,” Buxton said. “To be able to be upfront and get ahead of this type of a problem is big.”

On Tuesday, he participated in a workout with his teammates at Target Field and said he would know much more about his status after that. He had stayed back in the Twin Cities over the weekend while the team traveled north of the border to play the Toronto Blue Jays.

Buxton ran the bases on Saturday and Monday, head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta said, and has been doing outfield work along with hitting activities.

“With Byron’s knee, we have to be a little bit cognizant of the fact that he hasn’t really had a short IL stint with that,” Paparesta said. “It’s always been a long-term type situation. For him to get out there and do those things, he just has to gain a little bit more of that confidence and trust in that thing and that’s kind of where we are now.”

Rehab games will provide the next test for Buxton, and should he get through those with his knee feeling good, his return should be soon.

“We’re going to give him a few more days to settle into some high-speed activity and then I think we can activate him,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Topa sidelined for lengthy period

Justin Topa was crutching through the Twins’ clubhouse on Tuesday, his left knee immobilized in a large brace.

The Twins’ reliever was out on a rehab assignment with the Saints — his fourth game — when his knee pain forced him to shut things down again.

Topa had magnetic resonance imaging which he said revealed a 25% tear in his patella tendon. He received a platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injection, as well as multiple opinions on his knee.

The team has chosen a path that will allow Topa to avoid surgery for now, but it also means he won’t be doing any throwing or baseball activities for the next six weeks, Paparesta said.

“The injection was the best option to get back as fast as possible,” Topa said. “ … My goal from day one has (been) to get this done and over with and pitch this year and make an impact this year. Unfortunately, there’s a sense of a waste of six weeks after the first go-round. This time, we’re on the right track.”

Of all the injuries he’s had — which include a plethora of elbow problems — this has been the most frustrating from a rehab standpoint.

But there’s still hope that he can return and salvage some of the season, which is the goal after a breakout year in 2023.

“To have this, what I thought was a small little thing snowball into a bigger, longer rehab type thing, it’s extremely frustrating, especially coming over to a new organization, getting the camaraderie of everybody in spring training,” Topa said. “You feel like you’re part of the team, but not, in a sense.”

Other injury updates

Infielder Royce Lewis (quadriceps) is working through his running progression. Paparesta said they’re currently doing change-of-direction running with him and will then move into a progression on the bases, which he expects to be lengthier since Lewis has been out since getting injured on Opening Day in late March.

Lewis has been taking ground balls at third and hitting. Completing his running progression will be the final hurdle before he can go out on a rehab assignment, Paparesta said.

“Once we get on the bases, we’re going to try to keep it as hectic and crazy and unknown for him as possible, try to do it on back-to-back days just like you would play in the minor leagues on a rehab assignment,” Paparesta said. “That’s kind of the next stage. That’s kind of the final box checked (and then) we can go out there and go play.”

Reliever Brock Stewart had a PRP injection in his shoulder on Monday, Paparesta said, adding that they hope to see Stewart throwing again “here in the short term.”

“We have to get his arm strength where it needs to be,” Paparesta said. “We have to get his range of motion where it needs to be.”

Josh Winder (shoulder) is rehabbing with the Triple-A Saints. He is throwing in multi-inning outings.

Prospect Matt Canterino (shoulder) is long tossing from 90 feet. The Twins hope to get him off the mound in June, Paparesta said.

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