Byron Buxton’s resolve to do more base stealing comes with some new equipment.
The Twins’ stolen base leader has begun pulling on a protective mitten for his left hand once he reaches base, in order to protect his fingers.
“I’m just trying to be more careful,” Buxton said of the blue mitten, which has a metal insert that covers all but the tips of his fingers. “I started two weeks ago, just to keep my fingers safe.”
Buxton missed most of last season with a variety of injuries, and he doesn’t want anything as preventable as a broken finger to cost him playing time this year, especially since he vowed last week to be more aggressive about stealing bases.
Buxton said he has been advised in the past to protect his hands by sliding feet-first, so he’s not jamming his fingers into the base. But “for me, I’m more likely to be safe if I go in headfirst. I’m faster. But you just have to be careful.”
Sano on tour
Miguel Sano’s rehab assignment, which begins Tuesday with Class A Fort Myers, will be a tour of the Twins’ minor league system, with additional stops at Class AA Pensacola and AAA Rochester, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
“He’s going to probably play partial games early on in Fort Myers, play some third and probably DH a little bit,” Baldelli said. “[He’ll] ramp up to the point where he’s playing full games. He has to get to a number of at-bats, which I’m not ready to put that number out there, but he has to get a sufficient number of at-bats where we feel confident that we’re not [doing] him a disservice.”
The results won’t matter much, not at first, the manager said. Since Sano hasn’t played at a high level since January, the Twins don’t want to be fooled by early success into believing he’s ready.
“There are times where we’ve seen guys come back, miss a ton of time and just get a few at-bats, and they’re ready to play,” Baldelli said. “I don’t think that’s the right thing to do for a lot of reasons.”
Breaks all around
Houston center fielder George Springer didn’t miss an inning of the Astros’ first 28 games. C.J. Cron had sat out only twice this season, and Nelson Cruz had basically played every day except for the Twins’ trip to NL cities three weeks ago.
All three were out of the lineup Monday, with Baldelli and Houston counterpart A.J. Hinch taking the opportunity to give their key hitters a breather. The Twins are a week into a stretch of 33 games in 33 days, while the Astros are traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, for games this weekend, so both managers are trying to be cognizant of keeping players fresh.
Baldelli said he is “looking ahead a week and picking a day [off] for a few of our guys. Cruz is going to get an occasional day off.” That has a side effect that Baldelli likes, too: He can allow some other player to serve as designated hitter, in this case, Eddie Rosario.
“It’s a good day to get Rosie off his feet for a day. He’s a guy, instead of getting a day off, he likes the idea of being able to hit,” Baldelli said. “We don’t know how many days Cruz will need as the season goes forward. But when we get those opportunities to use the DH slot, it was good to get a guy who plays often off his feet.”