FORT MYERS, FLA. – The baserunning guru and the bat-control artist in Paul Molitor admired the bunt that Byron Buxton laid down in the third inning Monday, an easy infield single. But the manager in Molitor couldn’t help but think bigger.
“Kirby Puckett bunted a lot when he was a rookie,” Molitor mused. “When he started hitting 30 homers, he didn’t bunt as much.”
That’s a telling comment for the manager, considering Buxton’s major league career was largely a misfire, until a dazzling September call-up last season. But the Twins’ confidence in Buxton blossoming into future star hasn’t wavered, and positive signs have abounded this spring.
Signs like: Noticing that Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong was playing deep with a runner on first base in the third inning Monday. Buxton rolled a bunt past the pitcher’s mound and Wong had no play. “Perfectly placed,” Molitor said. “He’s just showing awareness.”
And yet …
“I don’t know how much bunting will be a part of his game. I think it should be,” Molitor said of one of baseball’s fastest players. “But as his offensive prowess grows, you might rather see him drive that run in, [or] create a first-and-third. … There’s times when it makes sense. It’s good to have it in your arsenal.”
Aggie holds court
The entire Twins pitching staff sat on the bullpen grass Monday morning, gathered around a Twins pitcher from the past. Rick Aguilera, in camp this week to supplement the coaching staff, offered some thoughts about what he considers the most important part of pitching: thinking.
“It was mostly about mental preparation, having a good mental approach,” said Aguilera, whose 254 saves with the Twins are second most in franchise history, behind Joe Nathan’s 260. “I think it’s the most important thing, personally. I would take a mentally composed and prepared pitcher before I would take a guy who throws 96 miles per hour and doesn’t know how to pitch. Being calm, being relaxed, being poised and mentally focused, you can’t do your best work without those things.”
Aguilera said he was flattered that his old team wanted him to speak to the current players. “I really appreciated it. It was nice to have the opportunity,” the 55-year-old righthander said. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a couple guys privately about it. You never know, veteran guys or young guys, you can always learn something that you might be able to someday apply to your own pitching.”
• Brian Dozier was in Fulton, Miss., on Monday to attend his grandmother’s funeral. Laynette Dozier, 97, died Saturday. The second baseman will be back when camp resumes Wednesday.
• Twins minor leaguers formally reported to camp Monday, but it only amounted to a few. More than 90 percent of the players reported early this year. The first official full-squad workout is Tuesday.
Phil Hughes will pitch a four-inning game against minor leaguers Tuesday to stay on schedule, but the rest of the Twins have the day off. Their next game is Wednesday night against Team USA as it prepares for the World Baseball Classic.