FORT MYERS, Fla. – Byron Buxton has stolen a franchise record 29 bases in a row, dating to May 23, 2017. But don’t worry, new Twins baserunning coach Tommy Watkins said: “That streak will end this year.”
“We expect him to get on base a lot more this year,” Watkins explained, “and run a lot more, too.”
The law of averages, in other words, figures to catch up to Buxton eventually, Watkins believes, though if it comes with a significant increase in successful steals, nobody will complain. Then again, nothing else ever seems to catch Buxton.
The speedy center fielder reached base in all three trips to the plate Monday, twice easily stole second base, and even tagged up and raced to third base on a popup to shallow right field. His two singles (and another line drive that Xander Bogaerts misplayed into an error) brought his spring batting average to .448. A year after injuries ruined his season and limited him to 28 games, Buxton has triggered new optimism that he will return to his jet-fueled ways in 2019. Especially on the bases.
“He’s one of the best base stealers in baseball, clearly. I don’t care how fast you are, it is impossible to steal 29 bases in a row if you do not have good feel and good instincts for what you’re doing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’m impressed watching him. Stealing bases against pitchers that are fairly quick to the plate, and catchers who can throw, you can’t just do that. [Yet] he does things that other players can’t do.”
So is Buxton expecting to exceed his career-high in steals, which coincidentally is also 29? “I hope so. That’s up to me — that’s about getting on base and picking the right pitch” to steal on, Buxton said. “I know I can do it.”
Lewis gets in
It wasn’t a storybook moment. It wasn’t even his best moment in the game. But Royce Lewis, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick and now the franchise’s top minor league prospect, finally took the field in a Twins game.
He grounded out to third base. Good enough for now, he said.
“I was just excited to get out there. You get anxious to be around anything big-league,” Lewis said after going 0-for-1 and playing the final three innings at shortstop Monday. “An inch closer, one step closer — just getting that feeling was really cool.”
The highlight, Lewis said, was successfully turning a double play to end Boston’s sixth inning, taking a throw from C.J. Cron and returning the ball to him in time to get Mitch Moreland. That, and getting to play after missing most of camp because of a strained oblique.
“I was just smiling, happy to see Royce out there, and he was too,” Baldelli said. “That’s what a lot of us have been waiting for.”
• The Twins trimmed their camp roster to 41 by sending infielder Randy Cesar and catchers Brian Navarreto and Tomas Telis to minor league camp.
• Marwin Gonzalez’s quiet spring camp continued with two strikeouts and a walk in three plate appearances Monday. Gonzalez, who joined the Twins two weeks after camp opened, is 1-for-19 (.053) with seven strikeouts in Grapefruit League play.
The Twins face Baltimore righthander Dylan Bundy for the third time this spring on Tuesday, when they travel to Sarasota to play the Orioles.