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Buxton's health improving but return to Twins isn't close

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Twins prospect Byron Buxton could soon be roaming the outfield and scaring opposing pitchers, but it's unlikely that it will be with the Twins at the big-league level.

The 21-year-old has been out since spraining his thumb while sliding into second base in a June 26 game against the Chicago White Sox.

The Pioneer Press reports that Buxton took some "pain-free" swings off a tee Tuesday and he's expected to take pregame batting and fielding practice with the Twins Thursday.

General Manager Terry Ryan told the Pioneer Press that Buxton will soon play in some simulated games in Fort Myers, Florida, before beginning a rehab assignment: "So we're talking about some time here before he's ready to come back here and compete at the major league level."

Buxton told the newspaper that he'll make sure he wears a pad on his thumb after reaching base in the future, but he won't hesitate from sliding head first. Instead, he'll make a conscious effort to get his hands on top of the bag to avoid jamming his fingers.

Buxton hit .189 in 37 at-bats before injuring his thumb.

Buxton tops MLB.com Top 100 list

MLB.com released its midseason prospect rankings on Tuesday and Buxton remained No. 1 on the list. Miguel Sano jumped from No. 11 to No. 4, but it wasn't all positive for the Twins.

Alex Meyer fell further than any prospect, dropping from 30th to out of the top 100. The second-biggest drop was fellow Twins pitching prospect Kohl Stewart, who dipped 64 spots from 37 to an unranked position.

More on Buxton from the rankings:

"If it hadn't been for a thumb injury suffered in late June, the multitooled center fielder would have graduated off of the list, making way for Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager to ascend to the prospect throne. But as frustrating as Buxton's injury history has been, he still has the most upside of any prospect in baseball. That ceiling, thanks to off-the-charts grades across the board (his 60 power is his lowest on the 20-80 scouting scale), is why he stays in the top spot he's occupied since taking over at No. 1 in our midseason re-rank back in 2013."

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