It was a beautiful Saturday night at Target Field. The Minnesota Twins are in more innings with the Cleveland Guardians. In the bottom of the 10th, Gio Urshella cut the lead with an RBI single to make it 3-2.
In the first tie run and Emmanuel Clase on the hill, the Twins had a chance to tie or take the lead. But they fell on their last out.
Rocco Baldelli has a decision. He gives Byron Buxton the night to treat his wounds, but the Twins need a hero. By giving Buxton a bat, it’s like sending Superman to the phone booth, ready to save the day and bring people home happy.
With the game on the line, it makes sense to send Buxton for an at-bat to try and get a win. Buxton, however, watched as Nick Gordon struck to end the game.
“Now, Buck is gone,” Baldelli said by Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic. “He can’t get into the game and escape and get burned and get into the cage. It takes a while for him to get ready to get out there and we’re not going to use him right now.”
Giving Buxton a day off is not a serious act. Some of the best baseball players have been banged and it takes time, but it’s an at-bat. The Twins have a chance to tie or win the game, so why not use a player that Baldelli called “the best in the world” earlier this season?
“It’s not going to be an option,” Baldelli explained. “In the end, we talked about that as a group, but in the end I was the one who made that decision. If we make that decision before the game, we don’t change what we do if the game goes on.”
The statement raised some eyebrows. Baseball is a game of changes. Managers will spend time observing what transitions will be used to suppress hitters and which pitchers will be used to end games. Rather than an adjustment, it seems the Twins are overly wary of their superstar – and for good reason.
So far this season, Buxton has only played 64% of games. In Abr. 16, injured his knee in the usual sliding at second base. On May 7, he was pulled from a game with a hip injury. When Buxton returned to center field a few days later, the game was suspended and he was pulled from the rest of the game which resumed the next day before serving as the appointed nightcap hitter.
Buxton returned to the outfield with Friday’s win against the Guardians but was ruled out when the game was on the line Saturday night.
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Buxton’s on-again, off-again use is surprising but understandable what he has accomplished in his limited playing time.
Entering Sunday, Buxton ranked ninth of all hitters with 1.6 wins over substitutes (WAR). His 10 home runs run in third place. His 1,025 OPS could be ranked fourth and his .691 percent slugging would be second if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
At this point, he’s as noble as Bigfoot, but sadly for Twins fans, he’s as idlas.
This is probably the reason why the Twins chose to spread Buxton minus as opposed to a travel injured list. The current state of injury in Minnesota may also have a factor because Carlos Correa, Trevor Larnach and Miguel Sano are on the shelf.
Adding Buxton to that list may make it difficult to stay on top of American League Central, but it’s one with a long-term vision in mind.
“Byron is as good of a baseball player as you can see,” Baldelli told USA Today’s Gabe Lacques last month. for him to play at his best all season and give us a chance to win a World Series. That’s our goal here. “
There may also be some sentimental value to the game. Baldelli has had a good career of his own, finishing third in the MVP vote during 2003. Injuries derailed a good start, however, leaving Baldelli in the same place as Buxton now.
“I think Buck and I get along very well with each other, I would say,” Baldelli said after Buxton broke his hand in June 2021. “We know where each other comes from. I have a lot of respect for him, and I think it’s each other.And we’ve always had some kind of pretty meaningful conversation.And we’ve had to have some conversations over the last few years.
If Baldelli makes the decisions, which he suggested during his postgame comments, the Twins could face a bigger issue. Perhaps the optics of putting in a player who signed a seven -year, $ 100 million contract extension last offseason will spark Joe Mauer’s thoughts, but the Twins need Buxton on the field to be successful.
It’s possible that the 10 -day vacation could do wonders and bring back Buxton, but the Twins will have to make that decision in order to move on.