MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton said there wasn’t much he could do for the first month of rehabilitating his fractured left hand. One thing he could do was watch baseball with his older son, Brixton, who has a favorite MLB player to watch: Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
“Tries to imitate his swing. He even picked Tatis over me,” Buxton said with a wry smile Friday. “He’s a great player. I don’t fault him at all. He likes to watch him. We watch his highlights every night just so he can see.”
With a little more than a month to go in an injury-plagued season, Buxton returned to the field Friday to show why he can be one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball. During this frustrating season, Twins fans are too well acquainted with Buxton’s maladies — a hip strain that cost him 40 games followed by the fractured wrist in just his third game back after Cincinnati’s Tyler Mahle hit him with a pitch on June 21.
“Obviously it’s been a long time so just to get back out there and put the uniform on, it’s a blessing,” Buxton said.
His first at-bat back was as anticlimactic as it gets — a three-pitch strikeout against Brewers starter Eric Lauer. Buxton walked in his next at-bat before flying out to left and striking out looking with runners on first and third in the seventh.
Josh Donaldson put the Twins up early with a line-drive two-run homer to left in the first inning while Andrew Albers, making his first big league start since 2017, pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings before the bullpen held on from there for a 2-0 victory over NL Central-leading Milwaukee.
Buxton said his left wrist still experiences soreness and that’s something that may linger the rest of the season.
“You’ve just got to know how to play through it and know what can make it worse and what not,” Buxton said. “I just want to play so it’s just one of those things where I’ve just got to keep being myself, go out there and keep playing my game but also know we’re also going to need me for the long run as well.”
Buxton said he doesn’t have any limitations on what he can do.
“It’s just me going out there playing ball again and having a little bit more fun,” Buxton said.
Fun can be a relative terms when the Twins are playing for little else but pride this late in the season, but for Buxton, it’s a chance to build positive momentum headed into next season and, hopefully, for him, avoid any other injuries over the last month.
He added he was wearing padding on his left wrist to try and soften some of the impact, especially when hitting.
“The padding was there to kind of take off that zap or the edge that you get,” Buxton said. “It’s just one of those things it’s a tool to try to help me get back on the field and play baseball again.”
Rehabilitating injuries can be a mental drain for athletes, especially when they are out for prolonged periods of time — and especially when one comes almost on the heels of another.
In that way, Buxton is glad he had his family around to help ease the “pressure,” as he put it.
“Especially my little boy, he asks a lot of questions now about the game, so even though I wasn’t playing, I learned a lot just by sitting on the couch with them,” Buxton said. “Just being able to speak the game with him was relaxing.”
Now, Buxton wants to be back on those highlight reels his son likes to watch.
“Buck is one of the best players in the game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don’t know any other way to say it.”
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