The Twins’ hottest hitter — and one of the hottest in the majors — remained sidelined Friday, out of the starting lineup for a fourth straight game.
Byron Buxton has been dealing with a hamstring strain this week, and the Twins planned to have him test it out Friday by running him through on-field activities including hitting and running ahead of their night game against the Angels.
Though manager Rocco Baldelli was unsure when exactly Buxton strained his hamstring, he did mention a play during Tuesday’s game against Boston when Buxton didn’t sprint down the line on a groundout as he normally would. Buxton finished Tuesday’s game but did not play in Wednesday’s doubleheader or in Thursday’s series finale against the Red Sox.
The Twins originally thought it might have been cramping, but Baldelli called it a minor strain on Friday afternoon.
“It’s minor, but here’s the thing: We’re talking about a center fielder. We’re talking about a guy that runs like a gazelle,” Baldelli said. “… I think there are times when catchers strain their hamstring a little bit, but they’re working in a very confined space, or a first baseman may go out there and play with something like that. To run like Buck, it’s impossible to do if you have a hamstring that’s not cooperating.”
Buxton is hitting .469 with a .528 on-base percentage and a 1.094 slugging percentage. He has five home runs and five doubles in nine games this season.
Baldelli gets scare
For nearly two hours Thursday morning ahead of the Twins’ game with the Red Sox, Baldelli sat isolated in his office at Target Field after receiving news of his own positive COVID-19 test just days after starting shortstop Andrelton Simmons tested positive for the virus.
“Time moves at a different pace when you’re told you tested positive for COVID,” he said a day later.
Baldelli wasn’t the only one, either — another staff member also received a positive result — creating a worrisome situation for the Twins. During that time, Baldelli took three to four more tests — all of which turned out negative — and worked on contingency plans for if he wasn’t able to travel to California.
“For most of the morning, it was actually the thought of planning exactly how this was going to work, potentially not going on the road trip, who was going to take over different roles as several people would have changed roles on the trip,” he said.
Baldelli, who was unable to participate in his normal pregame media session Thursday, was cleared shortly before game time. The Twins have not named a bench coach following the passing of Mike Bell last month, but managerial duties likely would have gone to major league coach Bill Evers if Baldelli had been sidelined. Baldelli said earlier in the week that if he were to ever get ejected, Evers would be the one to take over.
Baldelli said Friday afternoon that they weren’t out of the woods yet and had been “dealing with some further COVID-related issues at the ballpark,” though he said he was unable to go into details during his pregame session.
Polanco slides over
The Twins’ infield defense looked fairly familiar on Friday with Jorge Polanco sliding back to shortstop and Luis Arraez at second, returning both infielders to spots where they have ample experience.
“I know I can play shortstop. I know I can play second base,” Polanco said. “I just want to be ready, whenever they put me in any position, to play the game.”
With Simmons out, Polanco figures to see a good amount of time at short, though he said pregame that he hadn’t talked to Baldelli about it and wasn’t sure how often he’d be over there. The Twins also called up JT infielder Riddle when Simmons went on the COVID injured list and he’s appeared there twice.
“I feel ready for whenever they need me at shortstop,” Polanco said. “I’m ready to play.”