Byron Buxton to begin playing rehab games Friday

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Great development here for the floundering Twins.

According to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, young center fielder Byron Buxton has been performing well in simulated contests at the Twins’ spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida and is expected to begin an official minor league rehab assignment this Friday evening with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

Buxton has been on the shelf since June 26 with a sprained thumb. He didn’t set the world on fire in his first 11 major league games this season, batting just .189/.231/.270, but the ultra-talented 21-year-old is capable of providing a tremendous jolt for Minnesota offensively and defensively down the stretch.

Buxton was rated the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball this winter by both MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus.

As of this posting, the Twins are one game back of the second AL Wild Card spot.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.