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Twins’ Byron Buxton is back after 2-week stint on injured list with right knee inflammation

CLEVELAND — Byron Buxton is back in the center of things for the Twins.

The speedy outfielder returned from the injured list and was in Minnesota’s lineup batting fifth against Cleveland on Saturday after being sidelined the past two weeks with inflammation in his right knee.

Buxton missed Minnesota’s past 14 games.

He played in back-to-back games this week at Triple-A St. Paul without any problems, the final step toward being cleared to rejoin the Twins. Buxton was placed on the IL on May 3, two days after his knee flared up in a game against the White Sox.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the short-term plan was to have Buxton in the lineup in three games against left-handed starters this week.

“We’re going to run him out there,” Baldelli said before Saturday’s game. “As he comes back from this IL stint, he’s not going to play a ton of games in a row, but he’s going to play a lot. He’s going to play. He’s going to play a whole bunch.”

The 30-year-old Buxton has had surgery on the knee in each of the past two postseasons.

The Twins will closely monitor Buxton while giving him as much freedom as he needs. After all, he knows his limitations better than anyone.

“I trust him. He’s knows what he can do and what he can’t do in a particular situation in any given game,” Baldelli said. “His decision making and other people’s decision making is a little different. Other players, I tell them when to go and when not to go.

“There are times where you have to leave it in Bux hands where he can make that decision — to keep himself out there and keep himself feeling good.”

Buxton was batting .250 with eight doubles, one homer and 11 RBIs in 28 games before he had to shut down with his knee bothering him.

To make room on the 26-man roster, the Twins optioned utility player Austin Martin to St. Paul. Martin stole a base and scored after entering as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning of Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Guardians.