Buxton's speed, defense in center field add to flashy start to 2021

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Megan Ryan, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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As hot as Byron Buxton has been at the plate through the first month of the season, batting .426, his defense was nearly as eye-catching.

The center fielder has already made countless memorable defensive plays, diving for a catch or jumping at the wall to prevent a home run. But even with his eight doubles, eight home runs and 14 RBI in April and starting off May batting leadoff against Kansas City, he said he doesn't let his at-bats affect his field performance.

"I would say the energy of fun transfers over," Buxton explained. "Defensively and offensively, you've got to separate the two, because you can take a bad at-bat to the outfield and make an error."

Buxton also threw some credit to Luis Arraez, who has played alongside Buxton in left field. He said Arraez is very vocal and good with communication to help guide him on some of his backtracking plays at the wall.

Manager Rocco Baldelli has continued to marvel at Buxton's ability, including his trademark ground ball double where Buxton's speed causes opponents to "panic and error."

"The home runs and catches at the wall and the diving, those are all pretty fantastic," Baldelli said. "… But when he hits a routine two-hopper to an infielder, and he's safe at first base, that's normally the play where we are at a loss for words.

"You actually go, 'This is a completely different cat we're dealing with here.' That's not normal and the game was designed for that to not happen."

Sano's recoveryMiguel Sano rejoined the Twins at Target Field on Saturday while still recovering from a right hamstring strain. He had been at the alternate site in St. Paul while on the 10-day injured list, but the Class AAA team's impending road trip brought him back to Minneapolis.

"We're going to continue to work him out here right now, but we're going to again talk throughout the weekend about what exactly that means and how we're going to have them out there," Baldelli said. "He's physically doing really well. We want to make sure he sees a little pitching and gets some more swings and tries to get his timing ready to go. We want him feeling good offensively before we bring him back and activate him."

Baldelli added Sano isn't likely to join the Saints on the road.

Alex Kirilloff potentially complicated Sano's return. The outfielder slotted into Sano's first base spot Friday and Saturday and has hit three homers in this series. But Baldelli shrugged off the issue.

"Everyone is going to get their day," Baldelli said. "AK is swinging the bat good. We have some other guys swinging the bat good. We'll find a way to make it all work."

Taxi, pleaseWith the Saints starting May 4 at Omaha, the Twins will have some finagling to do when it comes to their own taxi squad for road trips. The Twins next head out Friday for series in Detroit and Chicago, but Baldelli said there might be some easier travel arrangements by then.

Depending on vaccinations, players should be able to fly commercial to meet the team on the road if needed. That would allow for the Twins to still use emergency call-ups while also not forcing some Triple-A players to miss real games – which COVID-19 already took away last year – just to bench-warm.

Even with all the traveling conundrums, having an affiliate in St. Paul rather than Rochester is still far easier.

"A lot less 4:30 a.m. wakeup calls," Twins pitcher Tyler Duffey said, reflecting on his time in the minors. "That 8 a.m. flight out of Rochester. There was times I got here, and my hotel room wasn't ready, so I had to come to the field to take a nap on the couch to wait for my room to be ready."