CHICAGO — Byron Buxton was confident during Summer Camp that he’d be ready for Opening Day, showing no doubts about that just two days after spraining his left foot. While the speedy center fielder was not in the lineup on Friday, he did rejoin his teammates in Chicago and should be cleared soon.
Buxton stayed back to work out with the group in St. Paul and get some extra at-bats over the past couple of days while his teammates traveled to Chicago. He made his way down on Friday, manager Rocco Baldelli said, and was on the bench during the opener.
“He’s probably running at a well-above-average clip for a major league player,” Baldelli said. “Can I tell you it’s 100 percent or pretty close to it? Not really. But I thought he looked in great shape. He’s been getting continuous ABs over in St. Paul. … Overall, it’s been encouraging. He’s had no setbacks at all. It’s all been going in a very positive direction.”
Once cleared, Baldelli will likely slot Buxton into his familiar spot at the end of the Twins’ order. Jake Cave started on Friday in his place in center, part of a lineup that flashed its power immediately on Friday night.
One week before Opening Day, Baldelli was asked how he might line up sluggers Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. He’d be comfortable, he said, if they were hitting back-to-back. He’d also be comfortable, he said, if they were separated by a spot.
During Summer Camp, the two were often hitting back-to-back, with Donaldson second and Cruz third, but Baldelli decided to separate the two righties in his Opening Day lineup, slotting in switch hitter Jorge Polanco between the two. Baldelli alternated handedness in his lineup against righty Lucas Giolito, leading off with Max Kepler in his traditional spot.
After Donaldson, Polanco and Cruz, left fielder Eddie Rosario slotted in fifth. Rosario hit fourth in all but five of the games he started in last season. Mitch Garver, Cave, Miguel Sano and Luis Arraez rounded out the lineup.
“We talk about balance, we talk about decision making. None of the decisions that we end up going with are because of one particular reason,” Baldelli said. “We don’t lean on one thing. There are times where I think looking at a balanced lineup makes a lot of sense. Sometimes it depends on the guys, the actual players you’re putting out there and their skill sets.”
Early in camp, Donaldson mused that there might not be enough time in a 60-game season for a team to overcome a slow start or slump. All of the best teams, he predicted, wouldn’t be in the playoffs.
Major League Baseball made moves to rectify that this week, exapanding the playoffs to 16 teams this year. The top two teams from each division will advance, and each league will produce two more wild card teams.
The first round will consist of a three-games series and every team will play in it, as opposed to the single wild card game before the Division Series.
“I definitely think the extended playoffs are going to be beneficial to a lot of teams. What I like most about it is it kind of takes the one-game wild card scenario out,” Donaldson said. “…The more games that you can play in a playoff scenario, hopefully the better team or whoever is hottest at that time is going to win.”
MLB announced just six new positive COVID-19 tests of the 10,939 samples collected during the last round of monitor testing. Four of those positives were players, and two were staff members. … Frontier Field, the home of the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, will serve as the Toronto Blue Jays’ alternate site this season. The Blue Jays will be playing their home games in Buffalo, N.Y., this year after being denied permission by the Canadian government to play in Toronto. … The Twins wore a “RC,” patch on their jerseys to honor minor leaguer Ryan Costello, who died this offseason.