PHILADELPHIA – Byron Buxton was not in the Twins’ starting lineup for a second consecutive game as he recovers from a sore back, but he sounded confident he would return as soon as Saturday.
Of course, he said that before hitting in the cage late Friday afternoon. He hadn’t picked up a bat since Wednesday evening, when he smashed into the center-field wall at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium while chasing a ball and injured his back. He didn’t start Thursday but entered as a pinch runner in the ninth inning, stole second base and scored the winning run on an Eddie Rosario single.
But he reminded everyone he was only out on Friday as a precaution.
“Just a little bit of soreness the other day,” he said. “For the most part, it wasn’t nothing that I couldn’t play the next day. It’s just one of those precautionary things, just giving me a couple days to get back.”
Unfortunately for Buxton, he has had enough injuries in recent years for any bump or bruise to raise eyebrows. And he said during spring training that one reason he gained more than 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason was to take the pounding he gets when colliding with walls.
“It helped,” he said.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Buxton should return to the lineup soon and was available off the bench Friday. And Buxton is eager to return to the lineup and will not change his style of play once he’s back in the outfield.
“It’s one of those things, yeah, I don’t shy away from,” he said. “It’s one of those things that my dad kind of was [like] ‘If you’re going to play, you’re going to play 110 percent,’ and like go get it, so it’s pretty installed in me. It’s no cruise control with me.”
Long time to return
The Twins are making their first appearance in Philadelphia since June 19-21, 2010. The last time they played at Citizens Bank Park, it was a doozy.
In one of the nuttier games they have played in recent years, the Twins fell behind the Phillies 8-3 in the June 19 game after three innings and trailed 9-4 in the ninth when they rallied behind long home runs by Jim Thome and Joe Mauer to tie the score. Thome’s homer landed in the visitor’s bullpen and was caught by Drew Butera.
Butera, with his father, Sal, in the stands, then hit his first major league homer in the 10th to give the Twins a 10-9 lead, but Jon Rauch blew the save in the bottom of the inning when Ross Gload connected off him.
The Twins scored three runs in the 11th, including a two-run double by Matt Tolbert, to win 13-10.
“Being on the road, that was huge,” said Justin Morneau, back in town Friday as part of the Fox Sports North telecast. “It was one of those places you saw on TV that I had never played in. The ball flies good. Good place to hit. Good atmosphere. Fans are into it.”
The Twins won the series the next day, as Carl Pavano outdueled Roy Halladay and Morneau homered in a 4-1 victory.
• First base umpire Jeff Nelson was struck on his right hand by a line drive off the bat of Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera in the first inning. Fortunately for the Park of Cottage Grove and Bethel grad, he was wearing thick gloves to stay warm and wasn’t injured. Despite Nelson signaling the ball was foul, fans booed as Phillies manager Gabe Kapler checked with plate umpire Cory Blaser to make certain.
• Major League Baseball is starting a Prospect Development Pipeline program that identifies the top high school talent in the country. The inaugural program starts June 13 in Bradenton, Fla., and the staff includes a few people with Twins connections. Former Twins pitching coach Garvin Alston will be one of the pitching coaches. Former righthander LaTroy Hawkins will help out in a supporting capacity. And Perry Castellano, who was the strength and conditioning coordinator for 12 years with the Twins, will fill the same role for the program.