MINNEAPOLIS - The St. Paul Saints could have a capacity crowd for the first time in nearly two years Tuesday night, and the fans who flocked to CHS Field got the chance to watch Byron Buxton in a Saints’ uniform.
Buxton, who has been on Major League Baseball’s injured list for several weeks with a hip strain, started a rehab assignment with the Saints as they’re hosting the Omaha Storm Chasers this week. He got the chance to show that it appears that hip is healthy again, reaching base three times batting second for the Saints in a 4-1 win in front of more than 5,000 fans.
Buxton flew out to right field in his first at-bat, then drew a walk. In his third at-bat, Buxton lined a triple off the wall in right center. He found another gear rounding second base, dove head first into third base and looked like the Buxton Twins’ fans remember. He also singled to right through a shift in his final at-bat.
"He looked good to me, flying around out there. He said he felt good," Saints manager Toby Gardenhire said after the win.
Before getting hurt, Buxton was named the American League Player of the Month for April. He was hitting .370 with nine homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBI.
Buxton was expected to play around three games with the Saints before returning to the Twins, who have a six-game home stand this week against the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. There’s a chance Buxton’s return might come faster.
In Tuesday’s 8-4 loss to the Yankees, Rob Refsnyder nearly hit a homer to left center. He ended up with a double, and injured his left hamstring diving into second base and had to leave the game. It’s the latest in a myriad of injuries for the Twins, who dropped to 24-36 and are 13 games out of the top spot in the American League Central Division.
KENTA MAEDA MAKING REHAB START WEDNESDAY
In addition to watching Buxton play, Saints’ fans can get a look at Kenta Maeda Wednesday night. Maeda was placed on the 10-day injured list on May 22 with a right adductor strain after throwing 73 pitches in a start against the Cleveland Indians.
Maeda, who finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting last year, will pitch for the Saints in a rehab start and is expected to throw 50 to 55 pitches against the Omaha Storm Chasers. If all goes well, Maeda could return to the Twins later this week.