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Buxton back with Twins; Maeda bound for elbow surgery

By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — While they’re buried in the standings, the Minnesota Twins have found a spark for the final month of the season with the return of center fielder Byron Buxton.

The oft-sidelined star was reinstated Friday from the injured list after missing 55 games while his broken left pinky finger healed.

“Buck is one of the best players in the game. I don’t know any other way to say it,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He does so much for us in every single aspect of the way we operate, everything on the field, everything off the field, the energy he brings. He’s excited to be back, and we’re just as excited if maybe not more.”

After returning June 19 from a strained right hip that kept him out for 39 games, Buxton played in only three games before getting hurt again in another fluke — being hit by a pitch. This latest setback was frustrating, of course, but he’s been through these hiatuses before and has learned to try not to be bothered by setbacks beyond his control.

“Probably a month into it, once I was able to just start lifting weights again and getting things back under control and doing things, it was a lot better,” Buxton said before the Twins started a three-game series against Milwaukee. “You can put that energy and all that time of thinking into doing something useful.”

Buxton, who was the AL Player of the Month in April, batted .369 with 21 runs, 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 19 RBIs, five stolen bases, a .409 on-base percentage and a .767 slugging percentage in 27 games before his latest injury.

On the bright side, his leg got even more time to rest.

“I’ve got no limitations. It’s just me going out there playing ball again and having a little bit more fun,” said Buxton, who played in four games for Triple-A St. Paul on a rehab assignment, going 4 for 13 with a double and a homer.

The Twins also announced right-hander Kenta Maeda will have season-ending elbow surgery performed Wednesday in Texas by orthopedist Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Rangers. Maeda was pulled from his previous start six days ago with tightness in his forearm.

Baldelli wasn’t willing to speculate about timetables for the return of Maeda, whose injury has left the Twins without any members of their original starting rotation for 2021. Michael Pineda, another one of the nine pitchers currently on the injured list, is the only other one still on the team.

The Tommy John ligament replacement procedure, which would likely keep Maeda out for 2022 as well, is one of several possibilities for treatment being considered, the manager said.

“I’m not going to get into the details of the imaging. If it was definitive that he needed to have Tommy John surgery, I would just say, ‘He needs to have Tommy John surgery,’ and we would all know that, but that’s not the case,” Baldelli said. “It is an option. It’s very much a real option, but it’s not the only option.”

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