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Twins plan to enter spring training with Byron Buxton in center field

Buxton played 85 games in 2023 and didn't step foot in the outfield grass.
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Twins fans can expect to see Byron Buxton roaming center field again in 2024. 

Speaking at the MLB Winter Meetings in Florida on Monday, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed that his $100 million outfielder will play outfield again so long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks to the knee that ailed him in 2023.

"We're going to go into spring training planning on, if everything continues to go well, having him out there in center field and very hopeful that the procedure he had puts him in the spot he needs to be in," Baldelli said, "but we also have to plan for everything, as usual."

December 13 will mark two months since Buxton underwent a procedure on his right knee to alleviate patellar tendinitis. Baldelli said Buxton has looked good in video clips that he's seen. 

"No matter which player you're talking about, you don't know anything for sure," Baldelli explained. "It's December. Anyone that's rehabbing and coming back, you have a plan and then you have a different direction you can go if that plan doesn't work out exactly the way you want. But the news is positive so far. The little video clips that I get, they look good. He's doing well."

Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey echoed that statement. 

“He was moving around about as well as they had seen him move around in a long time, which was great,” Falvey said of a recent Buxton workout. “He was doing some things that he couldn’t really do last year at different times in terms of how he was moving, so that was good.”

Byron Buxton

Jun 21, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) fields a fly ball against the Cleveland Guardians in the first inning at Target Field.

Buxton hit .207/.294/.438 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI in 85 games, all of them as the designated hitter, last season. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has nine seasons of Major League Baseball under his belt but he's played in more than 100 games just once – in 2017 when he won a Gold Glove and was getting MVP votes (18th in the vote). 

If Buxton isn't the center fielder next season, the most realistic options behind him are Willi Castro and prospect Austin Martin, who according to Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic will start spring training working in center field. Martin was playing shortstop when the Twins acquired him from the Blue Jays in the 2021 Jose Berrios trade. 

Martin was rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 16 prospect in baseball when the Twins made the trade in July 2021.