MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The home run in full swing Byron Buxton struck in the All-Star Game served as the game-winning run for the AL team and another defining moment in an uneven career for Minnesota’s versatile center fielder.
Just being there was the biggest problem.
Buxton’s first appearance at baseball’s midsummer showcase probably meant as much to him as any player ever selected, given that early struggles and premature injuries prolonged the wait until his eighth major league season. Appearing in 73 of the Twins’ 94 games before the break while avoiding the injured list was a significant step forward for the 28-year-old.
“I know what I am capable of. Staying on the field is the biggest situation,” Buxton said last week before leaving for Los Angeles, where he played for the AL team on Tuesday night.
When Buxton injured his right knee on April 15 and missed five games in a row, his prospects for a healthy season have dimmed significantly. As the pain and swelling persisted, the twins carefully scheduled Holidays. Having Buxton in the line-up for two-thirds of the time, they thought, was better than getting worse and missing a month.
“It’s been hard work, really around the clock, for him to go out there every day,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s not looking for breaks at the moment. He tries to take the field.
Buxton is batting just .161 in July, with 23 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances. Playing in 14 of 15 games this month is the most important number for the Twins, especially given their career-high 23 homers and Gold Glove-caliber defense at center. He is on pace for 126 games, which would be the most for him since 2017.
“Buck is doing pretty well, but it’s always going to be something we have to pay attention to in the future,” Baldelli said. “If there are 12 days, 14 days in a row? At this point, he will play most of these games. I don’t think he’s playing all those days if there aren’t built-in days off.
The Twins, who have a two-game lead in AL Central in Cleveland and a three-game advantage over Chicago, will need Buxton as much as possible to stay ahead.
“Just make sure you’re smart and the best person you can be to give the best possible release, day in and day out,” said Buxton, who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract last December. “Days are good, days are bad, but every day for me is a good opportunity to try to win my teammates.”
When Baldelli told the Twins earlier this month that Buxton and first baseman Luis Arraez had been named to the All-Star Team, the sense of accomplishment after all the setbacks he’s endured swelled. smother Buxton a bit at the moment.
Accompanying his family to Los Angeles to soak up the festivities was another experience to cherish, especially his father, Felton Buxton.
When Buxton celebrates a homerun or clutch hit with his teammates, he pumps his arm up and down like a kid signals a truck driver to honk his horn. It’s an ode to his father’s occupation and a nod to the memory of making the same move to his father when he stopped by their home in rural southwest Georgia at the end of the working day.
Felton Buxton told his son last week that he was taking a dozen baseballs to Los Angeles for star signings.
“He’s excited,” Buxton said. “For me, that’s what makes me happy. It’s all that matters.”
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