Is Byron Buxton Behind Schedule for Opening Day?
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY SportsInitial Reports
Byron Buxton is recovering from season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left-shoulder. He started swinging in late January, hitting off a tee in February and taking live batting practice this week. Slow and steady seems to be the name of the game and it’s certainly makes sense with Buxton’s injury history.
Near the beginning of spring training, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the club anticipated Buxton being ready for game action by mid-March. This deadline is quickly approaching, and Buxton has yet to appear in a game. Even if he does appear in games in the next week, will that be enough time put him on the Opening Day roster by March 26.
"There's no rushing this process," Buxton told MLB.com. "I know what I've got to do to be able to get back to being myself, and rushing is not one of them."
Manager Rocco Baldelli echoed this sentiment on Monday. "I don't have a schedule for Byron Buxton," Baldelli said. "Our training staff does not have a schedule for Byron. He's going to show us what his schedule will be by how well everything goes as it is laid out."
Buxton was off to a strong start last season before getting injured as he seemed to have found himself offensively. In 87 games, he hit .262/.314/.513 (.827) with 44 extra-base hits. His 30 doubles were near the top of the league before he missed time. Matthew Trueblood wrote there could be one seemingly small adjustment that would yield a big payoff.
If Buxton isn’t ready for Opening Day, there will be a few moving pieces that impact the overall 26-man roster. Firstly, Max Kepler would move from right field to center field where he played for parts of last season after Buxton’s injury. Secondly, Marwin Gonzalez would likely take over as an everyday player to start the year, but he has been coming back from an offseason knee surgery of his own, so the Twins would need other outfield depth.
Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. would likely be vying to serve in the back-up outfielder role. Cave hit .258/.351/.455 (.805) with 21 extra-base hits in 72 games last season. Wade Jr. dislocated his thumb in his second big-league game and was forced to sit out from early July until the middle of August. He returned to the big-leagues as a September call-up and hit .196/.348/.375 (.723) with five extra-base hits in 26 games last year.
Cave is already in a battle for the final roster spot with Willians Astudillo, so it seems more likely for both players to make the Opening Day roster if Buxton is unable to go.
Should fans be worried about Buxton? Is it better to take it slow with him because of his injury history? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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