ST. PAUL — Byron Buxton is back.
Just over two weeks after spraining his left foot, the Twins’ center fielder returned to make his 2020 debut on Tuesday, July 28, during the team’s home opener at Target Field.
Buxton had made the trip to Chicago on his own and was with the team on Opening Day, but he returned to Minnesota ahead of his teammates to continue getting at-bats and workouts in with the group training in St. Paul.
“The energy that we always talk about when he’s out there and patrolling center field and doing his thing, and getting on base and making things happen — it’s a big pick-me-up for guys,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Sometimes it’s hard to put your thumb exactly on why that is, why certain players have that. But one thing we know and anyone knows that’s spent time with Buck, played with him, coached him, is that he has it.”
Buxton, always an elite defender, was having his best career year offensively in 2019 before a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery cut his season short. The Twins know how important a healthy Buxton is to their lineup and since he missed much of camp, Baldelli said they will assess him after the game to determine his playing schedule.
“We will probably treat this first week a little bit differently than you normally would in the middle of a long season,” Baldelli said. “We’ll evaluate him continuously and keep talking with him.”
Missing Target Field? Want to come watch a Twins game?
While the Twins can’t let actual fans into the stands at this point, they’ve come up with a new plan to let fans into the park: Fans can buy a “big head,” (a picture of their face) to be placed in the lower-level seats.
The Twins began their season with “big heads,” of Twins legends, from Rod Carew to Kirby Puckett to Torii Hunter and beyond, behind home plate. For $80, fans can purchase a 2.5-foot “big head” of their own. The offer is available to season-ticket holders for half off.
Each “big head,” will be given back to fans after the season ends. The cutouts are limited in quantity.
Nick Gordon, the Twins’ first-round draft pick in 2014, still has not reported to the Twins’ alternate site camp in St. Paul after testing positive for COVID-19.
Gordon, who president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said had been showing symptoms, is now feeling fine but still has not been cleared to rejoin his teammates.
“There are some protocols as to when you would test and subsequently test from an onset of symptoms and then from whenever symptoms do stop, so he’s in that protocol,” Falvey said. “Our doctors and medical staff are taking care of him.”
The Twins honored former minor leaguer Ryan Costello, who passed away this offseason, COVID-19 victims and George Floyd,. among others, during their pregame ceremony.
New elements in the ballpark include coverings so players can social distance instead of sitting in dugouts, advertising on outfield seats and signage that reads, “Justice for George Floyd,” and “Black Lives Matter. United for Change.”
Tuesday marked the beginning of a stretch where the Twins will play 36 games in 37 days.
Miles Mikolas, the Cardinals’ scheduled starter for Wednesday will miss the rest of the season and undergo forearm surgery.