Byron Buxton on deliberate spring build up: ‘What’s best for the team is what’s best for me’
The Twins center fielder finally faced pitchers from another team during a minor league game Thursday
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Byron Buxton has gotten a good look at Minnesota Twins pitchers this spring, facing off against a handful of them during live batting practice on the backfields.
The toughest he’s faced?
“Probably Sonny (Gray),” he said. “ … You can tell he’s on a mission.”
On Thursday, Buxton finally got a look at another team’s pitchers when he faced a Braves affiliate in a minor league game at the Lee County Sports Complex. It was his first game since Aug. 22, the day he suffered a right hip strain. Buxton was shut down and eventually had season-ending knee surgery, an arthroscopic procedure to clean up the right knee that bothered him all season.
His build up has been deliberate this spring, and while he has taken plenty of at-bats in live batting practice, nothing compares to the real thing.
“Lives and a game are completely different. For me, I got them at-bats yesterday, so I’ll build off that,” Buxton said Friday morning.“ … A lot of at-bats for me ain’t facing my own teammates. I got four at-bats and that was yesterday against another team.”
Buxton served as the team’s designated hitter and said he hit in each of the first four innings to get his work in. The center fielder said he had wanted to get into a game “quite badly,” to see where he was at.
“You start feeling pretty good and you just want to get out there and test things out and yesterday, for me, (I) kind of figured out where I was and I’m trending in the right direction,” he said. “So, for me, that’s a positive and gives me an idea … of what I can work on the last couple days.”
One of those things he’ll need to adjust to is the pitch clock, which he said he was trying to keep track of in his head on Thursday. It’s something he prepared for this offseason, as well, so he doesn’t anticipate it being too much of an issue once he gets into Grapefruit League play.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he expects Buxton to play in a major league exhibition game at some point, though he’s not exactly sure when that will be. The Twins have 11 days left in Florida before spring training wraps up.
“The minor league games are a little bit more controlled, so we know what he’s going to do, what he can do,” Baldelli said. “Taking advantage of that as much as possible I think makes a lot of sense.”
While Buxton’s build up has been slow, the Twins have said they are targeting Opening Day for him.
For now, Buxton said he is coming in, doing his work and taking it one day at a time. The pace of his build up, he added, was “very mutual” between him and the team, with the intent of keeping Buxton active for as long as possible in 2023.
“What’s best for the team is what’s best for me,” he said. “Keeping me on the field is most important, so however that comes is however we’re going to play this out.”
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