Byron Buxton was back in town for Friday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, but it wasn’t for reasons Minnesota Twins fans might hope for. Buxton received his Gold and Platinum Gloves for his defensive work last year — presented by Jeff Pickler and Tony Oliva, respectively — but he’s still not ready to return to the team after his rehab stint was interrupted by a foul ball off his big toe.
That foul ball led to pressure in the toe, and doctors drilled into the toe to alleviate it. Buxton is in town to meet with team doctors, with an update expected sometime during or after Friday night’s game.
“The toe issue is lingering a little bit more than we would like, obviously,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We’re going to have our people look at him. I know Dr. Steubs and our team is going to take a look at him and figure out the steps moving forward.”
Buxton will almost certainly have to restart his rehab stint — which was one game and four hitless plate appearances at Fort Myers — though it’s unclear if that’ll be back with the Miracle.
Fort Myers is off on Monday before starting a three-game set on the road against Tampa. The Miracle are back for a six-game homestand starting Friday, but the Twins would clearly like to have Buxton back before then.
Chattanooga is home through Monday, so if Buxton is ready to start a rehab stint in the next day or so, he could head out there and get a game or two in before returning to the Twins in time for the Blue Jays series, but that’s all guesswork at this point.
The Twins have had a bit of a pitching churn to start the season, as Alan Busenitz was called up for the Puerto Rico series, then sent down while the team was in the Bronx. Phil Hughes — Friday’s starter — was activated from the disabled list, and Gabriel Moya was sent to Rochester as a corresponding move. Tyler Duffey came up when Busenitz was sent down. Aaron Slegers came up for a day, and was sent back to Rochester when the Twins added David Hale.
Don’t forget Tyler Kinley getting designated for assignment, too.
If you’re keeping score, that’s three recalls, three options and one DFA through 20 games.
In 2017, the Twins didn’t make any move with a pitcher involved until April 23, when they sent out Adalberto Mejia and placed Justin Haley on the disabled list and recalled Buddy Boshers.
The Twins played their 18th game of the year — so there’s been quite a bit more movement to this point.
“I think you try to make the best decisions,” Molitor said of balancing the moves between getting fresh arms up when the bullpen has been taxed versus sending out guys who haven’t performed. “If you prioritize one of those over the other, it’s not always logistically feasible to make that happen.”
Part of that pitching churn is the addition of Hale, who was claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees while the Twins were in town finishing their four-game series.
“It’s a weird position to be in,” Hale said of being in limbo after the Yankees designated him for assignment to make room for pitcher A.J. Cole. “I’ve done it before. You just literally have to hang out and do the best you can to keep your arm loose.”
Hale said he was able to head to Princeton — an hour south of New York City — to throw with his college coach, Scott Bradley. Bradley was a 12th-round pick of the Twins in 1978, but did not sign. The Yankees took him in the third round three years later, and he carved out a nine-year career with them, the White Sox, Mariners and the Reds.
The Twins pursued Hale in the offseason, but he chose the Yankees because they offered him an invitation to spring training. But ultimately, those were his top-two teams.
Hale admitted he wasn’t totally sure what the Twins liked most about him. “I’m not positive,” he said with a laugh. “I can start and relieve. I have (MLB) innings. I know all baseball teams right now are looking for a fresh arm or someone who can go deeper into a game or cover some innings. I think I work well that way.
“Stuff-wise, I’m not positive what they were looking for,” Hale said. “I’m a sinkerball guy.”
Hale, who got into the game in a long relief role on Friday, doesn’t have a big fastball — 90-93 mph — has decent swinging strike rates over his career on the slider (16.1 percent) and the changeup (19.4 percent).
“Coming up I was more of a sinker guy,” Hale said. “I wanted early contact, but I’ve made my secondary pitches more and gotten some swings and misses.”
The Twins announced Friday afternoon that reliever Luke Bard had been returned as a Rule 5 pick from the Angels. Bard had thrown 11.2 innings through eight appearances with the Angels, fanning 13 batters with five walks and an ERA of 5.40.
Overall, though, Bard had been hit pretty hard. Four of the 10 hits he had allowed were home runs, and opposing batters had hit .222/.340/.489 against him.
Bard will report to Triple-A Rochester.
Also headed to Rochester is Stephen Gonsalves, who was promoted from Double-A Chattanooga after a blazing-hot start. Gonsalves, who turns 24 in July, posted a 1.77 ERA through three starts with the Lookouts, with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks in 20.1 innings.
A club source told Zone Coverage that Gonsalves will start on the team’s upcoming road trip, which started on Friday night in Syracuse and goes to Pawtucket after that.
Right-handed pitcher Brusdar Graterol was added to the Cedar Rapids roster on Friday, and made his Low-A debut with 3.2 innings of three-run ball (one earned), seven strikeouts and no walks. Graterol, the team’s No. 7 prospect according to MLB.com. He’ll be eased into action after starting the year at extended spring training, but reportedly showed impressive velocity in his first appearance: