First off, kudos to Twins beat writer Phil Miller. Not only did he deliver an exceptional piece on Twins pitchers who have been struck dangerously in the head with line drives, but also he has done so while staying on top of a very interesting situation on his beat.
I'm speaking here of Byron Buxton's injury status, which I mentioned again on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast.
The timeline has gone from frustrating to ... both frustrating and curious, I suppose is how I would put it. Phil Miller and I talked about the short-term and long-term prognosis for Buxton and his relationship with the Twins on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Buxton was originally hurt on May 6 against Texas, a walk-off Twins loss that dropped their record to 11-19. A timetable for his return for what was diagnosed as a Grade 2 hip strain wasn't immediately know, though Twins manager Rocco Baldelli acknowledged at the time that it was "probably more a discussion of weeks than days."
That was accurate, though the number of weeks has been mounting. It was nearly six full weeks later that Buxton began a rehab stint with the Saints. Playing on alternating days on June 8, 10 and as recently as Saturday, Buxton went 5-for-9 for the Class AAA team with two homers, a double, a triple and seven runs batted in. All seemed well, and Buxton joined the Twins on their trip to Seattle.
But he hasn't returned to the field, which has to be frustrating for both Buxton and the Twins. Per Miller's story off of Wednesday's game in Seattle and Buxton's workout there, it didn't appear as though the outfielder could run at 100% strength.
"He may play more rehab games — that's not definite, but it's certainly a possibility," Baldelli said. "He's feeling pretty good, but we need to get him to the point where he's not just doing pretty good, but where there are no more acute issues he's dealing with."
The Twins have played 38 games since Buxton's latest injury, going 16-22. It's been seven weeks exactly since Buxton did play a Major League Baseball game.
My eyebrows were raised when I read this paragraph from Miller's story in particular: Buxton appeared frustrated as he walked off the T-Mobile Park outfield, and he said simply, "Great!" when asked how he felt. But it was clear that he had not run well enough for that to be true.
Is this a case of a player frustrated because he's still hurt ... or frustrated because he thinks he's well enough to play and the team is holding him back?
It would be a pretty far stretch to suggest the Twins are holding him back for anything other than his own health, though conspiracy theorists might suggest there is incentive to keep him off the field and advance the narrative that he is fragile in order to drive down the cost of a long-term extension.
As Baldelli said: "It's simple. When Buck can run, he's going to play. And if he's inhibited — frankly, if I think he's going out there and putting himself at risk by sprinting of reinjuring himself — then he's not going to play."