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Twins not rushing Sano, Buxton back to the lineup

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins fans awaiting the return of young building blocks Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton might do well to take a deep breath. It might be awhile.

Although happy with progress Sano and Buxton are making in the minors, the Twins aren't going to rush it, said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. There are no timetables, only the goal of getting them back ready to hit major league pitching.

"We know for this team to be the team we want it to be, and intend it to be, those two guys have to be key members of it," Falvey said Saturday. "We all know that, and no one's running from that."

Two of the top prospects in all of baseball before becoming regular, if inconsistent, big-leaguers the past few years, Sano and Buxton are working through issues that, while different, are equally crucial to whatever major league success they have ahead of them.

While the Twins struggle to gain a toehold in the American League Central, Sano is in Fort Myers, Fla., working on strength and conditioning at the Twins' minor league headquarters, home to the organization's advanced Class A team. Buxton is at Triple-A Rochester, N.Y., trying to fix a swing that has played well at every level but the majors.

While the Twins are eager to piece back together a team plagued by injuries since before Opening Day, they are willing to wait for Sano, an all-star in 2017, and Buxton, the 2017 Platinum Glove-winner in center field, to get right.

For instance, when Sano was sent to Florida on June 14, the Twins had a two-month plan for him to improve his lower-body and core strength.

"That way we could cut that short 10 days in, or 20 days in, or 30 days in, but let's make sure we have a good long-term plan there," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Saturday. "I would say that as it's progressed, he's at a place where he's made real gains over the last 10 to 12 days."

Sano is playing games with the Miracle, hitting .326 with a homer and seven runs batted in in 13 games, but the focus is on strength and nutrition. Felled by shin and hamstring injuries in August and May, Sano's 6-foot-4 frame was getting thick, and he was unable to work out the way the team believes he must. Otherwise, Falvey said, his body isn't strong or flexible enough to swing the way the team feels he must.

Manager Paul Molitor is in regular contact with Sano, 25, and spoke to him Saturday morning, July 7.

"I think he understands that this is probably a little bit of a fork in the road for him," Molitor said. "So, without too much panic about it, he understands, and I think he's heard us on the message and at times I think he's responded. It's not really a consequence for everything as much as this just seemed like the right next step.

"He understands that, and he wants to get back here."

Sano hit .264 with 28 homers and 77 RBIs in 114 games last season, making his first all-star team before suffering a shin injury that knocked him out the last month of the season, and out of the Twins' wild-card playoff game, an 8-4 loss to the Yankees in New York.

He was hitting .203 with an astonishing 66 strikeouts in 37 games this season when the Twins optioned him to Class A. The team is getting reports on his status.

"We do assessments based on how he's moving, and those are improving, and there has been weight loss; it hasn't been our focus, but that's part of it," Falvey said. "So I think we're seeing good progress, but we don't want to say there's one end point, because this is going to be a continued process, even if he is back here in the big leagues. He's going to have to continue a lot of this work up here to keep himself in a good position."

Buxton was hitting .203 with with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs in 15 games since being activated from the disabled list and optioned to Rochester. Limited to 28 major league games because of migraines and a broken toe, he was hitting .156 with a .183 on-base percentage with the Twins.

"We're seeing good progression when we're evaluating it on video," Falvey said. "We want him to focus just on the process of getting better, because if he does that, we believe the process will lead to good outcomes."

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