He can’t put more padding on the center field fence, so noted wall-crasher Byron Buxton is doing the next best thing.
He’s putting more padding on himself.
Buxton has added 21 pounds to his still-skinny frame during an extra-long winter workout schedule, the Gold Glove outfielder said Saturday, and believes the extra muscle will help keep him healthy in 2019.
“I just took my workouts a little bit more seriously. [When I was] younger, I figured that I wouldn’t have to work out as much because I’m young. My bones would have held up,” said Buxton, who played only 64 games, just 28 of them in the majors, during an injury-ruined 2018. “This year, it was more like, I actually have to put on some weight. If I want to play the way that I want to play and run into walls, I’ve got to have a little bit more cushion. So I just put it in the back of my head to put on some pounds.”
Buxton figures he’ll lose seven to 10 pounds during spring training, but he’ll still weigh above 200 pounds for the first time in his career. After battling migraines, a broken toe and a strained wrist, he’s determined to bounce back and stay healthy. “People tell you to take that frustration as fuel,” he said of his lost season, “and that’s something I did to help me do what I want to do.”
His physical conditioning, plus some encouraging words from new manager Rocco Baldelli, who flew to Georgia last month to meet him in person, has Buxton eager to get started. “On a level of one to 10, I’m a 10. I’m beyond excited to get things going and see where we are,” Buxton said. “I’m pumped.”
No more late signings
The Twins continue to monitor the free-agent market and haven’t ruled out adding another player or two, General Manager Thad Levine said Saturday. But they’re unlikely to continue that pursuit once training camp opens in mid-February.
That’s a lesson the Twins learned a year ago, Levine said. The Twins signed first baseman Logan Morrison on Feb. 28, more than two weeks after camp opened, and pitcher Lance Lynn two weeks later. And the delay in joining the team had an unforeseen impact, Levine said.
“They didn’t really get to be part of the team. And that’s more on us than them,” Levine said. “They were brought in less as teammates and more as mercenaries.”
Lynn was traded in late July, and Morrison’s season was ended by injury on Aug. 10. Though the pool of free agents hasn’t been depleted this year, the Twins are leery of going bargain-hunting once camp opens.
“We were conscious of that. We signed Blake Parker, we signed Nelson Cruz [and] Jonathan Schoop, we acquired C.J. Cron, all well in advance of spring training, so that hopefully they become part of the team. So they can feel a little more sense of pride about wearing Minnesota across their jersey.”
Velocity isn’t his focus
Michael Pineda hasn’t paid any attention to radar guns, so he’s not sure how fast his fastball travels now that his rebuilt pitching elbow has healed. He just knows it feels fast enough.
“I want to come back as a better pitcher,” said Pineda, whose fastball routinely clocked at 96 mph, with an average velocity of 94.1, before he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017. Is it possible a newly transplanted elbow ligament will allow him to throw even faster? “We’re going to see,” Pineda said with a smile.
He wasn’t smiling last September, when the 6-7 righthander saw his summer’s worth of rehab on his arm undone by a sore right knee. Pineda had planned to pitch for the Twins over the season’s final two weeks, a notion scuttled by a strained knee ligament that sidelined him for six weeks.
“It’s very frustrating for me because I was working so hard, and everything was so good. My arm was great,” said Pineda, who will complete the second year of his two-year, $10 million contract this season. “But I hurt my knee. I’m very disappointed by it, but it’s up to me to keep my head into it and get back to work.”
Guardado still around
Eddie Guardado was part of an all-closers table Saturday, joining Joe Nathan and Glen Perkins for a TwinsFest autograph session. The Twins Hall of Fame pitcher expects to be part of future TwinsFests, too.
Guardado, fired as bullpen coach along with manager Paul Molitor in October, has agreed to a position as special assistant to team President Dave St. Peter. Guardado will represent the Twins at various functions and will join the team at spring training for a week in February.