JUPITER, FLA. – A dozen reporters crowded around Byron Buxton in the visitors’ locker room after Tuesday’s game, waiting to talk about his first start in a Twins uniform. Must have been quite a memorable debut, eh?
“Not even close,” the phenom said after going 0-for-5 as the leadoff hitter in the Twins’ 3-1 loss to Miami. “But it’s all baseball. I’ve just got to keep working.”
Buxton still impressed the crowd, and his manager, by turning a pair of ho-hum ground balls into close plays at first base. “He flies,” Ron Gardenhire said. “He hits a ground ball, you think it’s going to be routine, and there it is — bam-bam — at first base. That’s what he does, he plays and he plays hard.”
And he’s learning, too, despite his two-fly-ball, two-ground-ball and a popup performance Tuesday. “I’m still trying to slow it down a little bit. I still feel kind of rushed sometimes,” Buxton said. “So I’m just trying to adjust to how this game is played.”
He’ll do it in a Twins uniform for a few days more, Gardenhire said. Minnesota’s minor leaguers reported to camp Tuesday and their first workout is Wednesday, but Gardenhire is in no hurry to send Buxton down just yet.
“We don’t have to do anything until [March] 10, roster-wise. So I’d like to see the kid play here, and we’ll see how he does,” Gardenhire said, then joked: “Terry [Ryan]’s not here. I might just sneak him in my lineup.”
Miguel Sano’s elbow surgery has been scheduled for March 12 in New York, assistant general manager Rob Antony said. The Twins’ top slugging prospect will be examined that morning by Dr. David Altchek, who has done similar elbow-reconstruction procedures on Twins players at least three times in the past. Altchek will perform Tommy John surgery on Sano’s elbow that afternoon.
Sano will remain in New York for a few days, then report to Fort Myers to begin the eight-month rehabilitation program.
Watch those railings
First baseman Kennys Vargas ran full-speed into the railing in front of the Twins’ dugout while trying to catch a foul popup Tuesday, but the 275-pound slugger remained in the game. “Sore [Wednesday],” he said, pointing at the ribs in his lower left side. “The ball went through [the sun], and I didn’t see the railing.”
“I don’t know if it hurt him or not, [but] it hurt me,” Gardenhire said afterward. “That’s a lot of man. I don’t mind telling him to look out, but I’m not going to catch him.”
The Twins have added a seven-inning B-squad game to Friday’s schedule in Bradenton, in order to get some extra work for the younger players on the roster before they head to minor league camp. The game with the Pirates will begin at 10 a.m. on an auxiliary field in Bradenton, before the regularly scheduled 1 p.m. game against Pittsburgh.
Mike Pelfrey faces Chris Tillman in the Twins’ first night game of the spring, a 6 p.m. Central start against the Orioles at Hammond Stadium that will be televised by FSN.