The Minnesota Twins and their frustrated fans have stopped holding their breath. Future center fielder Byron Buxton was only left with a concussion from a scary collision with a minor-league teammate.
Yes, head injuries can have long-lasting effects. Buxton must pass the standard Major League Baseball concussion protocols before being cleared to return to action, and general manager Terry Ryan said on Thursday afternoon that Buxton will be out "for a while."
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But considering the way Buxton laid crumpled and unconscious in the grass on Wednesday night after running into right fielder Mike Kvasnicka at full speed in New Britain, Conn., this was about the best-case scenario for him and the Twins.
"Under the circumstances we’re very fortunate," Ryan said. "It turned out about as good as you could ever hope with that kind of collision."
Buxton used hashtags "thankful" and "doingokay" on Twitter on Thursday morning to describe his mood and outlook.
"I greatly appreciate all the support and prayers! I’m very blessed! Please keep Mike Kvasnicka and I in your prayers!" Buxton tweeted.
Buxton and Kvasnicka each sprinted for a flyball in the fifth inning when they rammed into each other nearly parallel to the ground during the Double-A Eastern League game between New Britain and Bowie. Ryan, who happened to be there on a scouting trip, said Kvasnicka, who managed to make the catch, had a bruised hip and soreness in his abdominal area.
Both players were taken to a hospital for evaluation. Kvasnicka was on track to return to the field in a few days, Ryan said, but Buxton was actually knocked out for about 10 minutes before regaining consciousness as he was being put in an ambulance. The game was delayed for about a half-hour and resumed with an eerie quiet, but tests on the 20-year-old Buxton showed no broken bones or damage beyond the concussion.
Once Ryan visited him in the hospital, Buxton was alert and doing fine without a neck brace.
"I’m glad I was here," Ryan said in a phone interview from New Britain.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Buxton was selected by the Twins with the second pick in the 2012 draft out of Appling County High School in Baxley, Ga. Widely considered the top prospect in baseball, Buxton split time last season with Cedar Rapids in Low-Class A and Fort Myers in High-Class A and, combined, batted .334 with 49 extra-base hits, 77 RBI and 55 steals in 125 games.
For a franchise that has lost at least 96 games in each of the last three years and has fallen again out of postseason contention this summer, Buxton has given Twins fans some excitement for the future along with another highly regarded minor leaguer, third baseman Miguel Sano. Sano has been out all year following right elbow surgery, however, and Buxton has had a trying season.
He sprained his left wrist diving for a ball in spring training and aggravated the injury after starting to play again. In 30 games for Fort Myers, Buxton hit only .240 with 10 extra-base hits, 19 RBI and six steals. Nonetheless he was promoted this week to New Britain, where his latest setback came in his very first game there.
The concussion has likely eliminated the possibility of a late-season call-up to the Twins.
"He’s had one of those years. I can’t believe it. It’s unfortunate. He’s a good worker and a good kid and good teammate, everything, but he’s had a difficult time getting away from these injuries," Ryan said.