Byron Buxton “is the last guy who wants to do something like that,” his manager said about Buxton’s grand slam Sunday.
No, he wasn’t talking about the home run.
Buxton was forced out of the dugout to acknowledge the Target Field crowd, on its feet in tribute to the much-hyped Twins rookie who has enjoyed a thrilling return from Class AAA. Buxton homered in three of the four games vs. the White Sox, is 9-for-16 with six extra-base hits and has struck out only once.
Well worth a curtain call, Paul Molitor agreed. “It was a nice response from the crowd. I think everyone is well aware of his trials,” he said of Buxton’s .193 batting average when he was sent down. “You don’t see curtain calls a lot in September for a last-place team, but that was good.”
Buxton finished a triple short of the cycle, as did Brian Dozier. And the veteran second baseman said he likes what he’s seen of his teammate in his return.
“His approach looks a little different, which is good. You can see he’s staying up the middle,” Dozier said. “He seems to have a swagger, which is good, instead of being afraid to attack balls. You can see it. He looks good up there.”
Molitor has noticed, too. It’s only four games, he cautioned, but “he seems like he’s come up here determined to just let his ability fly, succeed or fail. He’s probably hit more balls sharply here in these first three days as he did over several days his last time around.”
Molitor met with his pitching coaches Saturday and tried to map out usage plans for the rest of the season. One decision will have immediate impact: Rookie righthander Jose Berrios is coming back.
Berrios was scheduled to pitch Class AAA Rochester’s season finale Monday, but the Twins decided it makes more sense to bring him back to the majors. And he will remain in the rotation, at least for the time being. “Berrios will be slotted in for the next couple weeks,” Molitor said, “and we’ll see how it goes.”
Molitor was less forthcoming about his plans for Tyler Duffey, who gave up five runs (and four home runs) over eight innings for Rochester on Saturday. “We kind of have a plan, but I haven’t confirmed it,” he said. “We know what we’d like to do with him.”
As for the rest of the month? There might be a change or two.
“We talked about, how hard do you want to push Ervin Santana, as an example? [We want] to try to be as competitive as you can against teams that are playing for something,” Molitor said. “We’ve had discussions about how to take advantage of the off days, even discussed a little bit about six-man rotation, and we’re toying with some things.”
Tommy Milone and Trevor May felt fine a day after pitching bullpen sessions, so they will both pitch to live hitters, in simulated game situations, on Tuesday, Molitor said. If all goes well, the pitchers could be activated and available by Friday.