MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton’s challenging 2023 season continued with another placement on the 10-day injured list, this time with a right hamstring strain, ahead of Friday’s series opener against the D-backs.
The expectation is that the injury, which is believed to have stemmed from an eighth-inning double during Tuesday’s game in St. Louis, will shut Buxton down for two weeks, after which the club will evaluate his progress, according to bench coach Jayce Tingler.
“Obviously, it’s early, but that’s been the initial kind of read,” Tingler said.
Making matters more difficult for Buxton and the Twins is the fact that he’d again showed signs of life at the plate amid an inconsistent season marred by several extended slumps, which has led to his slashing .207/.294/.438 with 17 homers.
Since coming off the paternity list on July 27 following the birth of his third son, Baire, Buxton had gone 6-for-12 with five doubles and a hit-by-pitch, a needed bounceback from the 4-for-47 slump that had taken Buxton through most of the month. In fact, the double that led to this injury was hit off Cardinals reliever John King at 116.9 mph to left-center field, the hardest-hit batted ball of his career tracked by Statcast.
Buxton will now have the additional challenge of trying to find his feel back at the plate after he’d acknowledged that it was difficult to get into that groove following his return from a minimum 10-game stint on the IL in June due to a left rib contusion stemming from a hit-by-pitch.
Though Buxton said he has struggled to adjust to the mental changes required by the designated hitter role, he’d mostly stayed healthy throughout the season, with his 85 games played up to this injury putting him on pace for his highest games played total since 2017, when he appeared in 140 games.
Luplow enters outfield mix
Buxton’s IL placement made room on the active roster for Jordan Luplow, who will enter the fray as a right-handed outfield option who could help the club against left-handed pitching. That had been one of their biggest needs at the Trade Deadline, which was otherwise quiet for the organization.
Luplow, 29, has spent parts of seven seasons in the Majors with the Pirates, Guardians, Rays, D-backs and Blue Jays, slashing .213/.314/.428 for his career with an .833 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Though he had a .923 OPS in 2019 for Cleveland and a .780 OPS in ‘21, he missed time in ‘22 with an oblique injury and posted a .634 OPS for Arizona in 83 games, and he saw action in only seven games for the Blue Jays this season, spending most of the year in Triple-A and on the IL.
“We know we need some help against left-handers, so any chance we get to lengthen our lineup, being able to add another bat, and also someone who plays all three outfield spots, we think it’s going to be a good fit going forward,” Tingler said.
Lee on the rise
The Twins promoted Brooks Lee, the organization’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline, to Triple-A St. Paul on Thursday after he slashed .292/.365/.476 with 11 homers and 31 doubles in 87 games for Double-A Wichita.
He’d just put the finishing touches on a superb July, when he slashed .365/.433/.600 to coax the Twins into promoting him a step away from the Majors only a year after he was selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.
It doesn’t appear likely that the 22-year-old Lee will be in the mix for a September callup, considering the Twins already have enough of a crowd in their infield that Jorge Polanco is playing out of position at third base — and that’s even before the upcoming return of Royce Lewis at some point later this month.