Christin Stewart launched a drive to center field in the third inning Sunday. Byron Buxton turned and headed toward the wall. And everyone at Target Field knew that Buxton was about to do it, again.
The Twins center fielder went back and to his left. As he reached the warning track, he checked for the wall, refocused on the ball, then jumped. He caught the ball just before slamming into the wall for his latest spectacular catch.
“Yeah,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Twins beat Detroit 6-4. “That’s what he does.”
Buxton, of course, was down on the ground for a few seconds after the play. So everyone had to wait to make sure he didn’t injure himself because, well, that’s also happened before. But he got up and slapped hands with right fielder Max Kepler.
Buxton added 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason, he said, so he could handle crashes into the wall like on Sunday.
“Once I took off, I told myself I was getting it,” Buxton said. “[There] wasn’t no stopping me then. It was either I was going to catch it or I was going to hit the wall. One of the two. Luckily I got both.”
He said being able to check for the wall was key for him being able to time his leap. Kepler also was yelling at him where he was in relation to the wall. Buxton had to reach back for the ball, but he pulled it off.
Still, he said it wasn’t good enough to make his already long list of best catches — because he didn’t hit the wall as hard as he has other times.
Buxton also was 2-for-4 at the plate, including a run-scoring double in the third. In the same inning, he impacted the game on defense and offense. Which one was more important?
“Catch, because the catch changed the momentum,” Buxton said. “You could tell it kind of took it out of them a little bit, and we came in that next inning and got the bats going.”
Buxton is batting .324, a good start that has eluded him in earlier seasons. So making more contact at the plate than at the wall is a good thing.
Perez starts Monday
After making three appearances out of the bullpen, Martin Perez will make his first start for his new team Monday when Toronto visits Target Field.
And the Twins, who spotted a flaw in his delivery while evaluating potential free-agent targets during the offseason, will get to see if their low-risk move will pay off big.
The Twins signed Perez to a one-year, $4 million contract after they convinced the 28-year-old lefthander that they could tweak his mechanics and get more out of his ability.
So far, Perez’s fastball is averaging 94.7 miles per hour, exactly 2 mph more than it did a year ago for Texas.
Perez also is throwing a cut fastball, which he hopes will become a reliable two-strike weapon for him. The Twins hope the combination of the two will lead to big things for him.
He has a 7.56 ERA after his three relief appearances, but Baldelli was pleased with the results.
“He’s had probably a couple of innings or a couple of small spurts where he would probably want them back and would probably want to execute a couple of pitches better,” Perez said, “but overall I think he’s thrown very well so we’re just going to let him go and see what happens.”
Perez has thrown 198 pitches in his three outings, so Baldelli said he doesn’t feel the need to put him on a hard pitch count. He will let Perez’s pitching determine how long he lasts.
Minor league awards
Class AA Pensacola lefthander Devin Smeltzer was named Twins minor league pitcher of the week after throwing 14 scoreless innings in two outings.
Infielder Travis Blankenhorn, who batted .333 at Class A Fort Myers, was Twins minor league player of the week.