BRADENTON, FLA. – After getting a look at top prospect Miguel Sano this spring, the Twins on Wednesday decided to bring in the player many believe is the second-best prospect in the organization.
Outfielder Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, started in center field and played all nine innings of the Twins’ 7-4 victory over Pittsburgh, going 1-for-4 with three runs scored.
Buxton made his debut with authority, hitting a sharp single up the middle to lead off the game, stole second, went to third when Russell Martin’s throw sailed into center field, and then scored on a groundout by Joe Mauer.
Buxton’s start delighted manager Ron Gardenhire, who couldn’t believe the 19-year-old could make such an immediate impact.
“We just started laughing,’’ Gardenhire said. “What is he, 18, 19 years old? He gets up, swings though the middle right away. You give him the green light, he steals second, goes to third. You just start laughing. This game is not that easy. It’s really not. That’s why these guys are drafted No. 1; they are very, very talented.’’
The score was tied 2-2 in the seventh when Buxton walked, stole second and scored on Eric Fryer’s single. The Twins added four runs in the eighth to put the game away.
Mauer and Fryer each had two hits as the catchers combined to go 4-for-5. Danny Ortiz added a two-run homer.
Buxton also showed off his speed as he chased down a couple well-hit balls. He’s expected to open the season at the Twins’ new Class A affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, playing alongside another top prospect, Max Kepler.
Buxton certainly made a good first impression Wednesday.
“Pretty awesome,’’ Buxton said. “First at-bat, got it out of the way. Just relaxed and hit the ball and had a good time.’’
LA VELLE E. NEAL III