“The fan in me,” Paul Molitor said this afternoon, wanted to keep Byron Buxton in the leadoff spot again Tuesday night, after his three-hit performance on Monday. In fact, he pondered it at home last night, something he tries not to do. But facing Jeff Samardzija and his slider is a lot different than beating up on John Danks, and Molitor isn’t ready to add that sort of pressure to the rookie outfielder yet.
So Buxton will bat ninth again tonight, and the Twins’ manager is ready to take the heat for it. “I didn’t want to get caught up in the emotion of it. Obviously when a guy like that is that talented, you’re always going to open yourself up a little bit” to criticism, Molitor said. “We’ll see how Samardzija does. If it’s a rough night for us, people are going to say, ‘You changed a good thing.’ But you’ve got trust [your instincts]. You don’t second guess yourself, you just try to do what’s right.”
The fan in him is enjoying watching the rookie, Molitor admitted — maybe a little too much. When he’s on the field, you don’t want to take your eye off him. Every swing, if he puts it in play, you watch him run. it’s just constant potential electrifying giftedness, it’s something you don’t want to miss,” Molitor said of Buxton, who is 6-for-30 so far as a major leaguer. “You hear the ’ooo’s and ‘ah’s when he strikes out. … I’m trying to pay attention to things I need to, but when the guy hits the ball in the gap, I’m following him. He catches your eye.”
So does Mike Pelfrey, who has already exceeded what most Twins fans expected of him this year. Maybe what most Twins officials expected, too. “I don’t think we could have imagined, even in our highest expectations, that his numbers would be where they’re at,” Molitor said of Pelfrey’s 2.97 ERA and team-high eight quality starts. “It’s a credit to him and him solely for what he’s done to get himself healthy and pitching at this level. There just haven’t been many games where he hasn’t given us a chance.”
Samardzija, on the other hand, hasn’t started a White Sox victory since May 27, and he owns a 6.84 ERA in June. He allowed just two runs in seven innings last Thursday against the Pirates, though, and he limited the Twins to two runs in eight innings on May 22, so the Twins know what they’re facing.
“We hear a lot about Samardzija, and rightfully so,” Molitor said. “But we like the guy we’re running out there, too.”
Here are the lineups for tonight’s game: