It seemed a little incongruous Monday, talking about what the best defender in baseball can do to improve his defense. Or maybe that attitude is why he swept all the best-glove awards in 2017.
Byron Buxton accepted his Defensive Player of the Year award from Wilson Sporting Goods before Monday’s game, only four days before he will be presented a Rawlings Gold Glove as the best outfielder, and a Rawlings Platinum Glove as the best overall defender. And as the Twins center fielder mused about the honors coming his way, he also mentioned the ways he wants to become better at his job.
“The biggest thing for me is to go out there and better myself. Get great jumps, get [good] reaction times,” Buxton said. “Work with my corner guys — communicating is what we do out there, and I need to be a better communicator.”
It’s not just calling off each other for fly balls coming down between them, Buxton said, but being aware enough to yell information that an outfielder tracking a ball can’t see.
“I know for me, it takes me one step from the track before I know I’m going to hit the wall. Communicating things like that helps us out,” he explained. “If I know I’m coming up to the wall, and [another outfielder] yells ‘One step!’, that’s enough for me to realize, if I’m looking at the ball, whether I can get up and catch it or back off before I hit the wall.”
Buxton’s manager said it’s hard to imagine the speedster fielding his position any better — but he’s glad he tries. “He’s got the tools to be at the top in almost every category, whether it’s first-steps, routes, closing speed, all those type of things,” Paul Molitor said. “I know when you go out and watch out outfielders work, he’s the leader. It’s wearing off on the other players as well as probably making him better. I think he’s going to continue to improve.”
Plan C might be in play
Phil Hughes remains tentatively scheduled to start Friday’s game against the White Sox, but Molitor hinted that the Twins haven’t definitively settled upon the righthander, on the disabled list since March 23 because of a strained left oblique. Hughes will throw a bullpen session Tuesday or Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla., Molitor said.
“We’re just trying to keep him on track as best as we can to be someone who we consider for that day,” Molitor said. “He hasn’t faced major league hitters in a while.”
But Molitor said there is a Plan B — “a B and C, at least.” That might be because after Friday’s start, the Twins don’t need another fifth starter until April 24 in New York against the Yankees, 11 days after this week’s start. That seems to leave open the possibility that the Twins could call up another starter for one game, and replace him afterward with a reliever, pushing back Hughes’ 2018 debut till New York.
Complicating matters is the fact that because of weather, Class AAA Rochester went eight days without playing a game, and their pitchers “really haven’t had access to even a lot of bullpens from what I understand.”
• Jason Castro felt some soreness in his right knee Sunday, a day after an awkward turn to retrieve a wild pitch seemed to bother him. But the pain had subsided by Monday, he said. The same couldn’t be said of his shin, however, after he fouled a ball “right above my shin guard. I mean, right above it.” His leg is being treated for a large bruise, but Castro caught Lance Lynn on Monday.
• Righthander Ervin Santana will be in the Twin Cities on Tuesday to have his right hand examined by Twins specialists, in hopes of being cleared to begin a throwing program.