ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Two days later, the Byron Buxton weather vane began pointing in a positive direction again. Maybe it's the Texas heat.
The Twins' center fielder, who less-than-100% performance on a series of sprints in Seattle on Wednesday caused Rocco Baldelli to suggest that another rehab stint might be in order, on Friday ran those same sprints so impressively, the Twins manager said "there is a possibility of being activated" this weekend.
"He ran well, better than he did in Seattle," Baldelli said. "He looked much more comfortable. He was more explosive."
And he's doctor-approved, too. The Twins sent Buxton for a magnetic resonance imaging test during Thursday's day off, and the MRI revealed no structural damage in his right hip, where a strain has kept him sidelined for seven weeks. Buxton was also examined by Dr. Keith Meister, the Rangers' orthopedic surgeon, at the ballpark Friday, just in case.
So could the he's-ready/he's-hurt merry-go-round end this weekend? Would that it were so simple.
"I don't want to say what may or may not be happening next," Baldelli said, wary of contributing to the on-and-off effect. And he defended the Twins' caution with their star player, pointing out that the risk of re-injury with this sort of hip strain is significant — proof of which is that Buxton did, in fact, suffer a mild setback during last Saturday rehab game in St. Paul.
"A lot of muscle injuries play out [this way]. Sometimes you start to work your way back, and if there's any soreness or any tightness along the way, you have to kind of take a break and let your body catch up," Baldelli said. "There's nothing abnormal or unexpected about what's been playing out. This is right in the window of where you would expect to be coming back from this type of injury."
Sticking in center
Max Kepler's status after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury was far clearer. In fact, he cleared up another puzzle, too: Who is the current starting center fielder?
Kepler was activated Friday and placed in the starting lineup, while Gilberto Celestino was sent back to Class AAA St. Paul. That means Nick Gordon, who two weeks ago had never played an inning in the outfield, is now the Twins center fielder, at least until Buxton's return. Kepler will also play the position occasionally, Baldelli said, but there's no doubt that Gordon has made a positive impression.
His presence probably means Gordon will miss his chance to face his half-brother, longtime big leaguer Dee Strange-Gordon, this weekend. The former Dodger, Marlin and Mariner is playing for the Iowa Cubs against the Saints in St. Paul.
Does this give the younger brother a chance to needle his older sibling? "Nah, I wouldn't do that," Gordon said. "He's accomplished way more than I have."
Nelson Cruz got his first look at Globe Live Field on Friday, right across the street from the empty stadium where he hit 101 home runs, fifth-most ever. That the temperature was 95 degrees when he arrived definitely added to his appreciation of the Rangers' new home.
"Days like today would be smoking hot," said Cruz, who spent the first eight full seasons of his major league career with the Rangers. "It takes a lot out of your body. Players appreciate [the air-conditioned dome of the new park], especially the ones who play here every day."
Even those who don't, too. Jose Berrios, who started Friday's game, is Puerto Rican and has plenty of experience of pitching in hot weather. Would he miss Texas' old ballpark?
"Not really, no," Berrios said with a laugh. "We like air conditioning, too."
• St. Paul righthander Shaun Anderson, acquired in February from the Giants for outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr., was claimed off waivers by the Rangers and sent to Class AAA. Anderson appeared in four games for the Twins this season, allowing 12 runs (nine earned) in 8⅔ innings, but the team decided it wanted to open his 40-man roster spot.
• Infielders Josh Donaldson and Andrelton Simmons, each of whom left Wednesday's game at Seattle because of injuries, were out of the lineup again Friday. Donaldson's right calf is better, Baldelli said, but he contracted an upper respiratory illness and the team decided to give him a night off. Simmons' sore ankle has improved, too, but the manager said they weren't certain he could play nine innings yet.