The Twins in recent days have been in contact with outfielder Byron Buxton to make sure there is no lingering resentment after they didn’t call him up in September.
There have been phone conversations with him as well as face-to-face meetings when Buxton was in the Twin Cities last week to collect some belongings before heading back to his home in Georgia for the offseason. It was during this time that Buxton was able to reconnect with teammates as well as staff.
The Twins believe that the air has been cleared since his initial reaction to not being called up. Conversations were described as positive, and they have been able to explain to Buxton that he remains part of their long-term plans.
Buxton could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Twins General Manager Thad Levine announced on Sept. 1 that Buxton would not be called up at the end of Class AAA Rochester’s season, stating that Buxton and his agents weren’t pleased.
“I think as much as we would like to believe that all the relationship-building here to date will carry the day, we understand this is a blow to the player, a potential blow to the relationship and we’re prepared to try and stay as consistent as we can and reinvest in that element of this because we realized this was information that was not appealing or certainly collaborative,” Levine said.
Buxton came off the disabled list on Aug. 14 in an effort to earn a call-up and salvage a small portion of a season in which he hit .156 in 28 games in the majors; was knocked out of the lineup by a migraine; broke a toe in his left foot while on a rehab assignment; and then injured his left wrist while at Rochester.
Buxton will finish the season 13 days shy of gaining another year of service time, which means the earliest he could become a free agent would be after the 2022 season. There’s a belief that the Twins took service time into consideration when deciding to leave Buxton at Rochester, raising the possibility of a grievance being filed.
Twins manager Paul Molitor said Friday that he had a phone conversation with Buxton on Thursday.
Can you blame him?
Righthander Chase De Jong’s Twins debut Sunday consisted of four scoreless innings and 73 pitches. He faced 16 batters, leaving after he got three quick outs in the fourth inning.
“He asked about going back out for the fifth,” Molitor said. “Rightfully so. I had no problem with that. He was in the right frame of mind in terms of him saying he felt great and wanted to keep going. But no, we decided to set it up the way we did and went with it. And [Zack] Littell did a nice job coming in.”
The plan was for Littell to piggyback off De Jong at some point, but it’s hard to blame De Jong for wanting to go one more inning and try to qualify for his first major league win.
He was called up in 2017 by Seattle in an emergency role and went 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in seven games (four starts). He has pitched eight scoreless innings at Target Field in two appearances.
More important to him, he’s mixing his pitches better, and the swings and misses were positive reinforcement.
“It means that the work I put in over the past year to 15 months makes it all worth it,” De Jong said. “I really grinded to get back here and to have a little success. A couple scoreless innings, that’s wonderful.”