How bad did things go for Byron Buxton in center field on Thursday? The uncharacteristic defensive mistake he made in the first inning was only his third-most-painful moment.
The other two came on collisions with the padded-but-hardly-painless outfield wall, plays that eventually prompted Twins manager Paul Molitor to pull Buxton from the game for his own good.
“He wanted to keep playing,” Molitor said after the Twins saw their four-game winning streak end with an 8-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics. “I just didn’t feel he was quite right.”
The Twins, in fact, had Buxton undergo a concussion test, which he passed. He will be evaluated again Friday, but he probably won’t want to remember his adventuresome day.
Buxton turned the wrong way at the warning track as he tried to track down Khris Davis’ first-inning fly ball, eventually spinning completely around, lunging for the ball and falling to the ground as it dropped for a run-scoring double.
An inning later, Buxton ran headlong into the bullpen door, which gave way from the impact. As Buxton lay on the ground, A’s catcher Stephen Vogt raced around the bases for a triple.
Buxton saved a couple of runs in the fifth inning, but again at a high price: He slammed into a padded post as he caught Matt Joyce’s warning-track fly ball, and cramped to the ground. He finally shook off the blow, but Molitor had seen enough.
“The second one got him a little bit. It dazed him for a minute,” Molitor said. “You start measuring your risk by continuing to have him play.”
In the past week, Jose Berrios pitched eight shutout innings to lower his ERA at Class AAA Rochester to 1.09, and Adalberto Mejia gave up two hits and no runs over seven innings. Yet Nick Tepesch, who hasn’t pitched in two weeks, will start Saturday’s game for the Twins against the Boston Red Sox.
“We’re going with the guy with experience for now,” Molitor said. “It’s going to be a little awkward, having not pitched for a while, but for now, he’s going to get an opportunity.”
In fact, the 28-year-old Tepesch is likely to get more than one. “I don’t want to put too much on his performance on that given day,” Molitor said. “I imagine there’s a good chance he’ll get more than one shot, but I’m not going to say that’s an absolute.”
Still, there is a strong chance Berrios or Mejia could be in a Twins uniform soon, following Kyle Gibson’s demotion to Class AAA Rochester on Thursday. Molitor is advising caution, though.
“We all think [Berrios] can impact this team at some point. It’s just a matter of [deciding] on timing,” he said. And Mejia, sent down after three starts with the Twins? “I really like Mejia. He’s got a pretty good feel for for what he’s doing. He just got a little over-amped up here,” the manager said.
Tyler Duffey would like to start again, too, but Molitor admitted the righthander’s success in the bullpen makes that unlikely this year. “I didn’t really envision him settling in the way he has [as a reliever],” Molitor said. “You want to consider the player’s future, too, but for now, it would take some fairly major [change] to get him back to a starter’s job.”
• Ryan Healy bunted for a base hit and blasted a home run Thursday, but he wasn’t around for the end. The A’s third baseman was ejected by umpire Mike Muchlinski for objecting to a called third strike in the eighth.
• Eddie Rosario, batting higher than seventh for the first time this year, extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a second-inning home run. Danny Santana also crushed a home run in the inning, a 435-foot blast to right-center that he said was the longest of his career at any level.