Twins star OF Buxton done for season, set for knee surgery

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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton won’t return this season and will have surgery on his troublesome right knee.

Derek Falvey, Minnesota’s president of baseball operations, provided an injury update on Buxton and several other Twins players before the start of the homestand Friday against the Los Angeles Angels. After Minnesota went 1-7 on its road trip and fell out of contention in the AL Central, the team made the decision to shut down Buxton for the year.

Buxton, who was named an All-Star for the first time this season and hit 23 homers in 73 first-half games, has been out since Aug. 23 due to a right hip strain. But the knee has continued to be an issue and Falvey said Buxton will have an arthroscopic “cleanup” surgery to alleviate some scar tissue and fraying.

“The reality is he doesn’t have any tears in his knee,” Falvey said. “He has some inflammation, he has some scar tissue, he has some kind of what ends up building up over time if you have tendinitis, which is kind of fraying areas of some of those ligaments. … It’s to clear that out.”

“So, what ends up typically happening is the scar tissue and otherwise creates more of that inflammation when you pound on it. So, now let’s clear out some of that and hopefully that’ll alleviate some of that stress going forward,” he said.

A date for Buxton’s surgery has not been set, but it will likely be next week to set him up for nearly a full offseason.

Falvey said Buxton’s hip is feeling better and will improve with rest. The knee, and the combination of the two, ultimately led to ending Buxton’s season. He finished with a .224 average, 28 homers, 51 RBIs and six steals in 92 games.

The team had held out hope Buxton would return this season, but Minnesota started Friday 10 games behind Cleveland in the division and 9 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot.

“I think once we got to a certain point over the last kind of week or so, and we were working through what the best next steps were, if we were in a slightly different position, we would maybe push this off a little further because in reality, the return for him is not going to be particularly long,” Falvey said.

“So whether we do it next week or we do it two weeks, three weeks from then, he’s only going to be down for a few weeks of time before he can start doing some activity again,” he said.

The team had given Buxton routine days off to manage the ongoing knee trouble. He sustained the hip injury on Aug. 22 diving for a ball.

Buxton, who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract in the offseason, has played more than 100 games just once in his eight-year career.

“This guy, he’s been battling through challenges over the course of a lot of his career, certainly, but that didn’t stop this year, and it started really early on,” Falvey said. “I think the fact that he was able to get there, fight through, have some healthy stretches, which were obviously not just healthy but incredibly productive, I felt like he was really tracking OK, and we were in a pretty good place there.”

Falvey said the team has not closed the door on a return for second baseman Jorge Polanco, who is out with left knee inflammation. Falvey said he’s also hopeful outfielder Max Kepler, out with a right wrist sprain, can return this season.

Outfielder Trevor Larnach, who was playing rehab games after core muscle surgery, is now dealing with wrist soreness.

Tyler Mahle, acquired at the trade deadline from Cincinnati, won’t return as he recovers from right shoulder inflammation. The team is focused on getting the pitcher ready for the start of next season.

Phillies select active duty Navy aviator in MLB Rule 5 draft

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SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft Wednesday, hoping the former top pitching prospect can still be effective once he completes his military service.

There is no definitive date on when the 25-year-old Song might be able to join the Phillies.

Song was picked from the Boston Red Sox system in the draft for unprotected minor league players. Philadelphia put him on the military list while he continues his active duty and he won’t count on the 40-man roster, the pool from which major league teams can select players for the 26-man active roster.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, with a 1.06 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings. With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s mph, the right-hander dominated that year as a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

The Red Sox drafted Song in the fourth round – he likely would’ve gone much higher, but his impending military service caused teams to back off.

In November 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo clearing the way for athletes at the nation’s military academies to delay their service commitments and play pro sports after graduation. Song’s request to have those new rules retroactively applied to his case was denied.

Song began school as a flight officer in the summer of 2020 and finished that phase last April. He started additional aviation training in May.

Song was among the 15 players, including three Boston pitchers, taken in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which wasn’t held last year because of the MLB lockout.

Washington took righty Thad Ward from Boston’s Triple-A roster with the first pick. Baltimore took Red Sox minor league pitcher Andrew Politi with the ninth choice and the Phillies chose Song with the 11th selection.

Teams pay $100,000 to take players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The players must stay on the big league roster next season or go on waivers and, if unclaimed, be offered back to their original organization for $50,000.