CLEVELAND – When the Twins demoted outfielder Byron Buxton on April 25, they indicated they were going to be patient and let their prized prospect rediscover his game.
And despite Buxton’s recent surge at Class AAA Rochester, the club doesn’t appear ready to call him back up any time soon.
Over his past 13 games, Buxton is batting .353 with three doubles, three home runs, five walks and 10 strikeouts for the Red Wings. That’s encouraging for a player who batted .156 with the Twins while striking out in 49 percent of his plate appearances.
With the Twins ranking near the bottom in scoring runs, they might be able to use Buxton, but they want to see him produce over a longer stretch, use his speed, drop more bunts and walk more.
In 20 games at Rochester, Buxton is batting .301 with three homers and eight RBI with two stolen bases. He was removed from Saturday’s game because of back spasms and is day-to-day, but the Twins expect him to be fine. Their game Sunday with Syracuse was postponed because of inclement weather.
“I think he’s off to a good start in terms of making some adjustments, but it’s hard to say how long this process will be,” said Brad Steil, Twins director of minor league operations. “He’s gone back to using a leg kick, so it will probably take some time to get that timing back. He’s also working on staying through the ball more [with his swing], with the goal being more consistent hard contact.
“As that improves, he will get on base more and his speed will be in play more. He has the ability to drive the ball to the gaps, so we’re not looking for him to just put the ball on the ground and run. With his speed, he can occasionally bunt for hits, so that will be one piece of his game.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor, who has been monitoring Buxton’s play, said he told him to work on his bunting while he was in the minors. He’s not sure if Buxton is doing that, but he is encouraged that Buxton is playing with more confidence.
“I don’t know how long [he will be at Rochester], or what the right time is yet,” Molitor said. “We really haven’t had that discussion. I think it is good for him to be down there playing every day.”
Polanco pays off
Molitor shuffled his lineup on Sunday, which meant infielder Jorge Polanco got a start at second base. It was only his fourth game and third start since being called up on May 7 when shortstop Eduardo Escobar was placed on the disabled list.
And Polanco came through by going 2-for-4 with his first major league homer, a blast to center off Trevor Bauer in the seventh.
“He threw me a fastball [belt] high,” Polanco said. “I thought it was going to hit the wall. I was thinking triple.”
For the second consecutive game, a Twins player hit his first major league homer. Juan Centeno did it on Saturday.
It’s been hard for Polanco to get on the field, but Molitor thinks that Polanco, still only 22, is benefiting from his time with the Twins.
“I went down in the cage [Saturday] and was watching him go through his routine,” Molitor said. “[He’s] very mindful of preparation. I’ve seen him in the video room. I know that even just being around here watching the games to see how it works up here is going to help him.”
• The Twins have May 23 circled as the date on which closer Glen Perkins will throw in the bullpen as he recovers from a sore shoulder that has sidelined him since the first week of the season.