ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — First pitch was less than an hour away on Tuesday, and the Twins still hadn't posted a lineup for their series opener with the Rays. The reason for the delay was simple: They desperately hoped Byron Buxton would demonstrate that he could play despite some badly bruised left ribs, the damage done by a 97-mph Tanner Bibee fastball last Thursday.
Alas, the Twins' designated hitter still feels pain when he swings, and it became clear he wouldn't be healthy for this series. With Trevor Larnach ready to be activated from the injured list, the team decided to give Buxton the entire week-long road trip to heal, backdating his injury to June 3.
It's the seventh consecutive season that Buxton has been sidelined by injury, and it dashes his oft-stated hopes for a completely healthy season. But Buxton admitted over the weekend that, though no ribs were broken by Bibee's pitch, he still feels the soreness with each breath, each step and certainly each swing of the bat.
"Buck went to the [batting] cage today. The pain was still there. He's banged up pretty good," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He's not playing for the next few days, so we might as well let him get [healed], as opposed to getting to day eight or nine and him still not being 100 percent."
Larnach, meanwhile, returns after a two-week bout with pneumonia, and three rehab games in Buffalo with the St. Paul Saints. The lefthanded outfielder went 1-for-9 with the Saints, with a home run, three walks and six strikeouts. He started in left field, batting fifth, for the Twins on Tuesday.
The Twins had the option of extending Larnach's rehab assignment for another week and call up Matt Wallner, who was named International League player of the week after batting .423 (11-for-26) with three home runs in six games last week. But Baldelli said the team preferred to add Larnach for now.
"I know he's been playing great. He's doing a great job," Baldelli said of Wallner. "He'll be back in the big leagues. I can't tell you when, but he'll be back."
The Twins had another extra player in their clubhouse Tuesday, too. Chris Paddack, who passed the one-year anniversary of his elbow ligament replacement surgery three weeks ago, drove up from Fort Myers, Fla., to be with his teammates during the series.
The visit is more than a homecoming, too. With the Twins' pitching coaches and training staff watching, Paddack threw 20 pitches at roughly 70% of his velocity — he was ordered not to exceed 82 mph, he said — in the bullpen Tuesday afternoon, his first time pitching from a mound since his Tommy John surgery.
"I'm just excited to get on the mound again and really be able to sharpen these tools over the next couple of months before September rolls around," said Paddack, who has been working out several times a week at the Twins' spring training complex since February. "Realistically, that's my goal. It's a reasonable goal to be back at the beginning or middle of September."
Not a homecoming
Nick Gordon lives within 100 miles of Tropicana Field, but the injured outfielder chose to remain in Minneapolis, passing up a chance to visit his offseason home.
"It wouldn't feel right to go home," Gordon said over the weekend. "I'm kind of in season mode, even with [a broken shin], and it's hard to get out of that."
He's wearing a protective boot on his right foot to protect his shin, which he fractured by fouling off a ball on it May 17, and getting around on crutches. He still goes to Target Field each day, though, to do upper-body workouts.
"I lift every day. I wish I could do more," the 27-year-old Gordon said. "But at least it doesn't hurt so much. The first three or four days, it hurt really bad. I can sleep now. I couldn't really move at all for a few days. Any movements, it was throbbing all night."
Baldelli has expressed regret for allowing Gordon to finish his at-bat after he fouled a ball off his shin on May 17, fearing he could have made the fracture worse by swinging or running. But Gordon said he gave the manager no choice.
"He came out and was asking me questions, but my answer was just, 'No, I'm not coming out. No, I'm not coming out,'" Gordon said. "I thought it might sting a little bit but then be OK. I was surprised when they told me it was broken."
- Royce Lewis' throwing shoulder is still sore after his awkward fall on his head during Sunday's game, so the third baseman was held out Tuesday. But "I can say we're hopeful he's out there tomorrow and he's playing tomorrow," Baldelli said. "I think that's realistic."
- Jair Camargo and Chris Williams each hit grand slams to help the Saints pull away to a 10-4 victory over the Iowa Cubs at CHS Field. Andrew Stevenson went 3-for-4 with two runs scored for the Saints.