NASHVILLE — At this stage of the offseason, still 10 weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Twins have Byron Buxton penciled in as their starting center fielder.
Buxton hasn't played center in a major league game since August of 2022, and he underwent a procedure on his right knee in October, but the Twins say they are optimistic about the way he's moving around. Buxton visited Twins medical director Dr. Chris Camp last week and did a workout at Target Field. He is expected to begin baseball activities over the next week.
"No matter which player you're talking about, you don't know anything for sure," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's December. Anyone that's rehabbing and coming back, you have a plan and then you have a different direction you can go if that plan doesn't work out exactly the way you want. But the news is positive so far. The little video clips that I get, they look good. He's doing well."
The Twins don't have a natural starting center fielder on their 40-man roster behind Buxton after Michael A. Taylor became a free agent. Austin Martin will focus on center in spring training, while Willi Castro and Nick Gordon have experience as an occasional fill-in.
"Obviously we've gone through some challenges with Byron in center over the last couple of seasons," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations. "We also know if he's healthy and in a good place, there's nobody we're going to get that's going to have as much of an impact as Byron Buxton playing center field."
During Buxton's workout at Target Field last week, which included head trainer Nick Paparesta and strength coach Aaron Rhodes, Falvey said Buxton "was doing some things that he couldn't really do last year at different times."
"We're going to go into spring training planning on, if everything continues to go well, having him out there in center field and very hopeful that the procedure he had puts him in the spot he needs to be in," Baldelli said, "but we also have to plan for everything, as usual."
Miranda, Kirilloff progressing from surgeries
Jose Miranda and Alex Kirilloff had procedures on their shoulders after the season ended, and they both could be eased into spring training.
Miranda, who will likely see more time at first base, started hitting within the past week, but he's not expected to begin throwing until January. The Twins initially feared Miranda would need major surgery, but he required only a cleanup procedure.
Kirilloff is building strength in his shoulder, but he has yet to advance to full baseball activities.
"We don't have any reason to believe this is a long-term issue based on what was fixed," Falvey said of Kirilloff. "His wrist was in a great spot last year. Shoulder should be in a good spot going in."
Twins lose minor league coordinator
Justin Willard, who spent the past three seasons as the Twins' minor league pitching coordinator and six years on the player development staff, joined the Boston Red Sox as their director of pitching.
Willard, 33, was a minor league pitching coach for his first two seasons before he rose to coordinator. The Twins had their former assistant pitching coordinator Zach Bove poached by the Kansas City Royals before the 2023 season to be a major league assistant pitching coach and the San Francisco Giants took another previous assistant pitching coordinator, J.P. Martinez, to be their major league assistant pitching coach ahead of the 2021 season.
"If you're on this side of the table, it's an unfortunate one, but it's also you're proud of these guys," Falvey said. "I mean we've had a run of a few different pitching coordinators and key pitching people find major league jobs elsewhere. That's a cool thing."
* Former Twins pitcher Chris Archer joined the Los Angeles Dodgers front office as an assistant in their baseball operations department, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archer had a 2-8 record and a 4.56 ERA in 25 starts with the Twins in 2022, which was the last season in his 10-year career.
* The Cincinnati Reds signed Emilio Pagán to a two-year, $16 million contract with an opt out after the 2024 season last week. "All the people that I heard from, that I respect a lot, they had great things to say [about Pagán]," Reds manager David Bell said. "That was important to us. The bullpen had a great year last year and the culture was a big part of it."