Three Twins have been named AL Player of the Month for April since the award was created in 1974, and the first two give the third one some pretty exciting clues about his future. Both Kirby Puckett in 1986 and Torii Hunter in 2002 were young and immensely popular, elite defenders who were just finding their power stroke at the plate, a development that led to long and storied careers.
So it's no wonder that Byron Buxton, voted the winner for April 2021, likes keeping that sort of company. "It's pretty cool to be able to get on a list with [those] guys," he said Monday.
It's also remarkable progress for Buxton, considering that April has always arguably been his worst month at the plate. Not until 2019 did he manage to hit better than .200 in the season's first month.
All that changed in 2021. Buxton believes he has, too.
"I haven't been in this spot in my career. It's kind of hard to explain. But I'm in a good spot, where anything that's close to the [strike] zone, it [looks] pretty big," Buxton said of his .426 April with eight home runs and a Twins-record-for-any-month 1.363 OPS. "It's allowed me to sit back on certain breaking pitches or sit on an offspeed pitch. It's just all about, honestly, you're going up there being yourself and trusting what you do."
Buxton collected an extra-base hit in each of the first six games he played in, setting another Twins record, and led the American League in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. While MLB doesn't release voting totals from the 45 media members who vote, he outpolled the Angels' Mike Trout, who led most of those categories for much of the month.
"We've been watching this every day, and it's been spectacular," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Buck puts a lot into everything he does. Not just the work he puts in, but the passion he puts into the game and into his career. To see a guy get rewarded for that, it's just very rewarding for all of us, too."
Buxton is the 16th Twin ever to win the award for any month, but it's been more than a decade — back to outfielder Delmon Young in July 2010 — since a Twin was so honored.
Dobnak sent to AAA
Only three of Randy Dobnak's seven appearances this year have amounted to more than 40 pitches, and none more than 52.
The Twins, believing they will need the righthander to make a start or two sometime soon, sent him to Class AAA St. Paul on Monday to pitch longer stints in preparation.
To replace Dobnak, the Twins recalled lefthanded reliever Brandon Waddell, who appeared in two games last month and didn't allow a run over three innings.