The Minnesota Twins, American League Central champions for the third time in six years, have until Tuesday morning to set their postseason roster for their first-round series. Determining if outfielder Byron Buxton is healthy enough to merit a roster spot may require every last minute.
Buxton, who hasn't played since Aug. 1 because of a strained hamstring, divulged to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minnesota Star Tribune that his right knee has required more maintenance this season than he anticipated following offseason arthroscopic surgery. In turn, he's been limited to DH duty all season, removing his elite defense from the Twins' lineup.
Unfortunately for the Twins, they have other injury considerations to ponder as they assemble their roster. Shortstop Carlos Correa is expected to be back in the fold. Utility player Royce Lewis, meanwhile, is tentatively slotted in as the club's DH, as his own strained hamstring is likely to limit his defensive ability.
Lewis has been one of Minnesota's best hitters when he's been healthy, giving him an obvious advantage over Buxton, who has been closer to league-average. It's a defensible decision, in other words, but it's one that leaves Buxton without a spot unless he can play the field -- something that he's determined to prove that he can over the coming days.
Buxton told Neal that during a meeting with manager Rocco Baldelli earlier this week he made it clear he intends to "make it harder for [him to decide] over these next four days than it was the entire season."
In the event that Buxton proves unable to play the field, the Twins will likely turn to a combination of Michael A. Taylor and Willi Castro in center. That's not the most exciting tandem on paper, but both have produced this season.
It's to be seen how the rest of the bracket shakes out over the season's final few days. The most likely outcome is for the Twins to open their postseason against the Houston Astros.