CHICAGO — Byron Buxton first felt “the stretch” in his right hip after he took off for second base during the fifth inning of last Thursday’s game against the Rangers. It wasn’t enough to worry him at that point.

The worry came innings later, when the stretch turned into more of a grab, turning from what he described as “stretchy soreness” to “more of a pinch.”

That pinch turned out to be a Grade 2 hip strain. But a week later, Buxton said he is physically feeling “pretty good” and is just focused on being smart about the rehab process and listening to both team trainers and his body as he works his way back.

While the Twins still haven’t put much of a timeline on Buxton’s return, only saying it would be a matter of weeks rather than days, the outfielder was upbeat, projecting positivity on during a Thursday morning Zoom. This weekend, he is expected to take another big step in his rehab, scheduled to take some swings in the cage for the first time.

“With a lot of guys, when they get hurt, it’s the end of the world,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But when you’ve been hurt and you’ve dealt with a lot of different disappointments, to deal with that and to continually come back with that positivity and with that energy that Buck has every day, and to not just be there for yourself but for your teammates the way that he is, he’s a very special guy.”

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While out, Buxton said he’s been doing what he can to still help the team, watching videos of pitchers to try to pick up information to relay back to his teammates. Doing that not only helps the rest of the team, but it also helps him “mentally not get into that fog of you not being on the field.”

Buxton, just days before the injury, was named the American League Player of the Month and was hitting .370 with a .408 on-base percentage and .772 slugging percentage with nine home runs. It was, perhaps, one of the best months by a Twin ever.

But it’s not how he was hitting that made the injury tough on for Buxton, but rather how it occurred. And even still, as Buxton deals with another setback, he’s found a way to keep his frame of mind positive.

“It’s more frustrating when you feel like you’re doing everything right and injuries still seem to kind of pop up. That’s probably more frustrating than (getting injured while I’m) doing good, I guess,” Buxton said. “Because normally if you’re running into walls or whatever the situation may be, you expect at some point you’re going to be on the DL or the IL. This year I felt good, I felt confident — still feel confident — in how I was playing in the outfield. It’s just stuff that you’ve just got to be positive about, keep that mental strength and take it one day at a time.”

Simmons out

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was out of the lineup on Thursday, though Baldelli said before the game that he was available if the Twins needed him. Simmons did not appear in the game.

Simmons left Wednesday’s game early with right ankle inflammation. Baldelli said Simmons had a slide on Tuesday night that had caused some discomfort and he had initially tried to “get ahead of it” before Wednesday’s game.

“It’s not as though this is something that simply is better because we got him out of the game last night,” Baldelli said. “He’s still dealing with it and there’s still some soreness in there.”

Briefly

The Twins will send Matt Shoemaker, José Berríos and Kenta Maeda to the mound during their upcoming series against Oakland. … The Athletics swept the Twins in April, shutting them out in a doubleheader and then beating them 13-12 during an extra-innings heartbreaker. … The Twins will increase capacity at Target Field to 60 percent beginning on Friday.