– The Twins and Yankees were still playing in the midnight hour last July 24 at Target Field when New York center fielder Aaron Hicks hustled toward left-center, dived and extended his glove to take away what would have been a winning three-run double by Max Kepler in the bottom of the 10th inning.

The Yankees won 14-12 in 5 hours, 3 minutes, and media declarations that Hicks had made “the catch of the year’’ still remain a Google away.

On Saturday, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was answering a few questions from reporters, informal enough for him to be asked:

“That Hicks catch … you wouldn’t have had to dive, right?’’

Buxton smiled and said: “I don’t know. It was a good catch. I’m not out there, so I can’t really judge it. He went and got it.’’

Two years ago, Buxton came to spring training after batting .309 with power in his final 47 games of the Twins’ wild-card 2017 season. He had turned 24, and there was optimism he had been guided into a hitting approach that was going to work.

Exhibition games aren’t a time to reach conclusions, but there was some flailing going on from Buxton in March 2018 that was familiar. This was followed by a lost, injury- and illness-plagued season that gave more strength to doubts over future excellence for Buxton.

He went home for the winter, got off the leg-kick, no-leg-kick merry-go-round and he stated this again Saturday:

“I went back to what I was doing in high school … I took a step back last offseason and kind of found myself.’’

We saw him for 82 games in 2019, before a left shoulder injury on Aug. 1 that led to surgery, and we saw that found ballplayer.

Recovery continues, but there’s a perception he finally has gained the belief of the person most important to future stardom: himself.

If Buxton plays 140 games as he did those 82 games in 2019, this should be a ballclub that’s beyond good, since he’s the player who makes everybody on the field better (particularly pitchers).

As for that Hicks catch, Byron? On the run for you.

Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing sports@startribune.com and including his name in the subject line.

 

 

PLUS THREE

More Buxton on Saturday:

• Recovery: “I know what I have to do to get back to being myself, and rushing is not one of them.”

• Now taking swings in soft toss: “Not being able to swing since September, being able to get a moving object back toward you, that’s fun …”

• We put men on the moon 51 years ago and MLB outfield fences remain dangerous: “I don’t think I’ll comment on that.’’