Saturday began about Aaron Hicks, then Torii Hunter became news, and by the end, it was Buxton, Buxton, Buxton. Oh, there was a ballgame in the middle there, too. Here are a few extras from a long, rain-soaked day at Globe Life Park:
— The Twins, missing two outfielders due to injury and suspension, used a makeshift lineup in Saturday’s 11-7 loss, and it cost them. Eddie Rosario, normally the left fielder, played right field and was fooled into a mistake that cost a run. With one out in the third, Shin-Soo Choo singled sharply to Rosario. Delino DeShields, who had doubled, slowed as he approached third base, and Rosario threw the ball softly to second baseman Brian Dozier. The moment he did, DeShields suddenly sped up and raced home, beating Dozier’s relay.
An inning later, Eduardo Escobar, the shortstop forced to play left field once more, settled under a deep fly ball, then suddenly allowed it to hit the base of the wall for an RBI double. It was an ugly look for an outfield defense that — Hicks’ dropped fly ball on Friday aside — had been improving lately. Poor Escobar, he thought he’d escaped the outfield when Danny Santana was send to Rochester, leaving the shortstop job for him.
— Hunter’s timing in dropping his suspension looks odd, given that the Twins were already missing an outfielder. But Hunter looked sick when he arrived at the ballpark, and though he was in the lineup, it was clear Paul Molitor was leery of playing him in this hot Texas weather. Some negotiation was necessary to make sure the player’s union was OK with Hunter simply dropping his appeal and taking the next two days to get well, but it all was smoothed out and Hunter went home to suburban Prosper to get well.
Meanwhile, Hicks’ elbow might end up costing him his starting job. The flare-up sounds bad enough to put him on the disabled list, and the Twins will turn over his job to Byron Buxton while he’s gone. Or longer — Molitor said he’s open to Buxton convincing him that he’s ready for the big leagues. Since Rosario seems to be taking hold of the left field job, and Hunter is having a strong season in right, Hicks might find himself battling Shane Robinson (and Jordan Schafer) just to keep the fourth-outfielder job. These next few weeks should be fascinating.
— And finally: Buxton. Finally.
Twins fans have waited for this day for a long time, and it happened suddenly, without warning. Buxton will be in uniform on Sunday, and we’ll see if he’s ready to be a major leaguer. He’s almost two years older than Mike Trout was when he debuted back in 2011.
He’s only the latest of baseball’s elite prospects to get the chance. Already this season, top rookies like the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Addison Russell (who visit Target Field next Saturday) and the Astros’ Lance McCullers have made their big-league debuts. Shortstop Carlos Correa, the only player taken ahead of Buxton in the 2012 draft, was promoted to the majors last week, and is 5-for-16 in his first four games with Houston. And the Indians announced Saturday afternoon that shortstop Francisco Lindor, another top-five-rated prospect, will make his debut the same day as Buxton.
It’s going to be a big day. Nervous yet?
“I’m not nervous now. I’m ready to get up there and get going,” Buxton said. “I’m sure once I get up there, nerves will start kicking a little bit.”
More than a little, pitcher Mike Pelfrey said. “I remember making my debut and not being able to feel my legs. I was just shaking,” Pelfrey said. “There’s nothing you can tell a kid like that, you kind of have to experience it. All the nerves, the butterflies, adrenalin, everything is going to be there. The emotions the first time are off the charts.”
So is his talent — and also perhaps the risk of promoting him straight from Double-A. It's interesting that the Twins made the move when their team is at its lowest ebb since the season's first week.
"The last thing you want to do is force a kid into something he’s not ready for. We’ve done that a few times here and guys have paid the consequences, either going back or with growing pains,” Molitor said. “We’ve been patient. … He’s playing every day, and yes he missed a year, but we’ll run him out there and see how he does.”