Under that leadership, it was suggested to a mockery last September that Byron Buxton could be a legitimate contender for the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player Award.
There were better contenders like Chicago White Sox winner Jose Abreu and Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber, but Buxton’s worth to the twins was clear at the time. When he played, Minnesota was 26-12.
This number naturally summed up the fact that Buxton’s presence is not only important but also too rare. Since it was first called in 2015, Buxton has been on the Injured / Disabled List 13 times.
But less giggles at the idea of Buxton, the second choice in the 2012 amateur design, which is fully exploiting its rare potential.
After his 393-foot home game in a 10-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday moved to the second deck in left field, the first crowd of any size to watch a baseball game at Target Field in 18 months brought in , the Twins Center Fielder a serenade he rounded off the bases.
It’s been humble about MVP chants, but it’s April and the pandemic has capped the crowd at 9,675. If Buxton continues to strike as early as it did early, and the pandemic continues to decline as vaccinations increase, those chants will be heartier in August.
Buxton knocked out the cleanup for the second time in his career, going 3 to 5 with a singles, doubles and Homer win as the Twins improved to 5-2. April has never been Buxton’s best month on the plate. In fact, it was his worst – he made a career in March and April.
In six games he hits with four homers, four RBIs and four runs scored .421.
Rocco Baldelli couldn’t remember if he was the one who put Buxton in fourth place in the order before Thursday, but the Twins manager said it only made sense against left-handed Marco Gonzalez.
« He swung the club great and with today’s line-up it just seemed to fit into the configuration at this point, » said Baldelli. « He plays fantastic from every angle and gives us great bats. He’s just finding the barrel and it’s coming out so hot right now. That’s exactly what we’re getting from Buck. »
It wasn’t just his bat, of course. Sensing anything struck in the air near midfield as usual, he hit the base four times and knocked out a potential double-play ball in a third inning with four runs, leaving the runners with an out at first and bring third place.
Rather than having two outs and an open first base, Gonzalez Mitch Garver had to face Buxton in his peripheral vision and gave up a triple home run that was only stopped because he hit the bat’s eye in midfield.
It’s this speed that has made Buxton an important factor for the twins every time he plays. It saves runs and takes additional bases. Well, it seems, his racket is catching up with the rest of his game.
« Everyone in this room has a purpose on our team, but they have something special, » said right-handed Jose Berrios, who received a standing ovation after allowing two well-deserved runs and fanning eight in 5 2/3 innings on Thursday would have. « He has a lot of energy, he’s the fastest (player) in the game and when he’s healthy he can hit and run. We can see it so far this season and that’s Byron. »
With just one full season – 140 games in 2017 – Buxton was like a great trailer for an OK movie: the highlights were amazing, but there weren’t enough of them. Those who suspect that in a long series of short jumps out of Buxton we will see someone else may be forgiven.
But if this turns out to be Buxton’s summer, it will only be fair. Twin fans have been waiting for the former top perspective to become a superstar longer than they have been waiting to go to a baseball game.
For those who dare to dream, there is space on the Byron Buxton train.
Gemini grateful for the return of the fans
Twins put on a show for fans with a 10-2 home opening game against Mariners
At a home opening game like no other, Twins greet fewer fans on a gray but happy day
Photos: Target field workers prepare the space for the Twins’ home start on Thursday
Twin starter José Berríos is ready to take the ball at home on Thursday
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