The Twins activated star centerfielder Byron Buxton today, per the Athletic’s Dan Hayes (via Twitter). He is in the starting lineup for today’s ballgame. Buxton has been out with a hip strain since May 7th. The injury was initially only expected to keep him out for a couple of weeks, but Buxton ended up with a 41-day stint on the injured list.
The injury was a particularly crushing blow because Buxton had been red hot to start the season. He logged a ridiculous 2.6 bWAR in just 24 games before going down, slashing .370/.408/.772 with nine home runs in 98 plate appearances.
Losing Buxton proved to be as detrimental to the Twins’ playoff chances as we might have guessed. They were 12-19 (.387 win percentage) when Buxton went down, but just 5 1/2 games out of first place. Rocco Baldelli’s squad has actually played a little better in the 38 games since, going 16-22 (.421 win percentage). Nevertheless, the Twinkies have fallen 13 games behind the White Sox for the division lead and 13 games behind the Astros for the second wild card spot entering play today.
In a corresponding move, the Twins optioned Willians Astudillo the Triple-A, per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com (via Twitter). “La Tortuga” has served as a source of, shall we say, comic relief this season, bringing a 54.2 mph heater to the mound in three relief appearances. He faced 11 total hitters and allowed one earned run on one somewhat controversial blast from Yermin Mercedes.
In his day job, Astudillo has hit .254/.276/.385 while employing his trademark all-contact approach (1.6 percent walk rate, 7.9 percent strikeout rate). Despite the hyper-specific offensive profile, Astudillo provides value through his defensive versatility. He is perhaps the most positionally agile player in baseball, having appeared at first, second, third, right, catcher and, of course, pitcher this season. Shortstop is the only position Astudillo has never played at the big-league level.