Buxton gets taste of game speed in first spring start
Top prospect goes 0-for-5, admits that adjustment to big league play continues
JUPITER, Fla. -- Byron Buxton already had come off the bench to play in four Grapefruit League games, but on Tuesday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire put his name atop the lineup to start against the Marlins.
The 20-year-old center fielder, ranked the No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, might not have much time left in big league Spring Training, with the first round of roster cuts likely coming next Monday. So Gardenhire wanted to get a good look before Buxton likely heads off to Minor League camp.
"I've been playing him in the last parts of games, and today I just started him, because I do want to look at him, and I know there's a clock ticking here, so I want to see him swing," Gardenhire said before his club's 3-1 loss to Miami. "I want to see him get multiple at-bats like a lot of these other kids, so we're going to start doing that before that roster game comes into play."
Buxton is coming off a season in which he hit .344/.424/.520 with 12 home runs, 77 RBIs and 55 stolen bases between two Class A affiliates. He was 2-for-7 with a double this spring before going 0-for-5 on Tuesday, with two flyouts, two groundouts and a foul popup.
Buxton did get to show off his blazing speed by very nearly beating out both grounders, including a routine hopper to second base.
"He just missed some balls today," Gardenhire said. "He's getting the bat head in the right spot, and today they went up. He hits a ground ball, and you're thinking it's gonna be routine, and there it is, bam-bam at first base. So that's what he does. He plays and he plays hard."
Buxton hasn't spent much time sitting on the bench throughout his baseball life, so the second overall pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft admitted that this spring has been an adjustment. So has the speed of the game at the top level.
"I'm still trying to slow it down a little bit," he said. "Still feel kind of rushed sometimes, so I'm just trying to adjust to how this game is played."
Regardless of Buxton's performance this spring, he is not competing for a roster spot to begin the season, according to assistant general manager Rob Antony.
"For a player of his ability who hasn't played above high [Class] A ball, I think it'd be a stretch to throw him in there, and I don't see a reason why we'd want to do that right now," Antony said. "So the primary objective of this Spring Training for him is to get his feet wet, to be around it all and get acclimated, so when he is up here for real or he's ready to compete for a job and he's in the mix, he'll be a little more comfortable."
Gardenhire weighs in on Twins' first replay
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Twins were part of the first test of Major League Baseball's new instant replay system during Monday's split-squad game against the Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla., but manager Ron Gardenhire missed out while leading Minnesota's other squad against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla.
Bench coach Terry Steinbach served as acting manager, and Paul Molitor handled bench-coach duties against Toronto. Steinbach never used a challenge, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged a pair of close plays at first base in which Twins runners were ruled safe. Both calls were upheld upon review.
"They were all excited about it," Gardenhire said of his coaches. "They got to do it and see how it works a little bit. ... There's still questions, a lot of questions on strategy and all that stuff. I think each manager is going to do it different, and the game's going to dictate it."
But of the two significant rule changes to go into effect this offseason, Gardenhire is much more worried about the one governing home-plate collisions. He brought up a situation in which the catcher tries to give the runner a path to the plate, only to have the throw pull him into the runner's line.
"That's a lot put on an umpire, when you've got a ball coming in and you have to see if there's going to be a tag, and you add all that other stuff into it," Gardenhire said. "There's a lot on an umpire's shoulders, and I'm concerned about it."
• Third-base prospect Miguel Sano's Tommy John surgery has been scheduled for March 12 in New York, according to Antony. Sano's rehab time is expected to be about eight months.
• Antony said he had last talked with general manager Terry Ryan on Sunday. Ryan announced last month that he had been diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma in a lymph node in his neck, and he underwent successful surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He is still waiting to receive his schedule for undergoing radiation treatment, according to Antony.
"He said every day he feels better, so everything's going in the right direction," Antony said. "Checkup went well, his two-week checkup, so all encouraging there."
• Fifth-starter candidate Samuel Deduno, who is coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery, pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief in his second Grapefruit League appearance. He gave up one run on three hits, with one walk and one strikeout.
"Deduno was Deduno," Gardenhire said. "A couple balls go flying and a couple balls were filthy. That's what you get. We just want to make sure he's healthy, get him through his innings, and as we go, we'll stretch him out and see where we go from there. Right now, it's all about the health part and getting him through his innings."
• First baseman Chris Colabello singled and walked twice in three plate appearances, and Gardenhire said he is benefiting from some changes the Twins encouraged him to make after last season. Colabello has been shortening his swing and also setting up closer to the plate.