Byron Buxton ‘getting back into the groove’ at Twins camp

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was plenty of cause for celebration in the Buxton household this offseason.

Among them, Byron and his wife, Lindsey, found out in November that they would be expanding their family, adding their third boy later this year.

In January, Buxton’s beloved Georgia Bulldogs won another national football title, and days later he learned that Carlos Correa, whom he developed a close bond with during their first season together in Minnesota, would be returning to play alongside him for the next six years.

And his right knee, the one that plagued him for the entirety of the 2022 season and required a season-ending surgery, has been progressing according to plan.

“I’m just getting back into the groove of things,” Buxton said. “ … I feel good and that’s all that matters to me.”

Buxton, who spent hours in the trainer’s room getting ready to play, had an arthroscopic surgery in September to clean up his knee. Through the knee pain, he still put together the first All-Star season of his career.

In the early days of camp, the Twins are keeping a close eye on the star center fielder, who posted a 135 OPS+ (100 is league average) with 38 home runs in his 92 games played.

“We have reason to be optimistic,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They were able to go in there and fix the things that needed to be fixed up, and we know that that needed to be done. And I’m glad we got it done.”

President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said they planned to take things “on the conservative side,” with Buxton, meaning that he is expected to track slightly behind his teammates. But Falvey said there’s no reason to believe that Buxton wouldn’t be ready come March 30, when the Twins open their season in Kansas City.

“By all accounts, he’s come in and he’s in a good place,” Falvey said. “… His running progressions have gone well. Everything has gone well. He’s not coming in with any issues.”

Typically, Buxton spends time training in the offseason with his high school track and field coach, Sheldon Pearce, in his hometown of Baxley, Ga.

Pearce runs him through hurdles and other exercises equipped to improve Buxton’s mobility. That track work will likely come later this spring, Buxton said.

“Just because (the Twins) hadn’t seen me run, didn’t want to mess nothing up before I got here. Just a lot of stuff. But probably get him down here when I start getting into my running progression to make sure I’m doing everything right,” he said.

Buxton reported to camp on Friday, and in the early days, the feedback the Twins have gotten from him has been positive. Everything, Baldelli said, is in line with what the Twins had been hoping for from the center fielder.

And that’s a good thing for the Twins because if they are to come anywhere near accomplishing the lofty goal Buxton was talking about on Sunday morning, they’ll need their star center fielder to be on the field.

“Win a ring. That’s the only goal you hear around here now,” Buxton said. “It isn’t, ‘Oh, we want to make the playoffs. We want to win. Whatever.’ Bottom line is to win a ring.”