Byron Buxton said he was going to “keep nagging” Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli to put him in the lineup.
So far it hasn’t worked, but that doesn’t mean Buxton won’t try again before the Twins conclude a three-game series Wednesday night against the host Seattle Mariners.
“It’s not as easy as you think (to sway Baldelli), especially about injuries,” said Buxton, who has been sidelined for more an month with a right hip strain.
“He knows players pretty well. He knows if I come out here at less than 100 percent, something could possibly go wrong because I really don’t know how to play less than 100 percent. I know they want to keep me from making it worse. I just want to do my thing.”
Buxton performed well during a three-game rehabilitation stint with Triple-A St. Paul, going 5-for-9 with two home runs and seven RBIs. He traveled with the team to Seattle, where he has been working out.
“He’s doing pretty well, but he’s dealing with a little bit of residual soreness from being out there on the field,” Baldelli said. “There were some times where he refrained from running full speed out there, maybe to protect himself a little bit.”
The Twins could certainly use Buxton, who was batting .370 with nine homers and 17 RBIs through 24 games this season. They’ve lost three consecutive games, including a 10-0 defeat against Seattle on Tuesday night, to drop into the cellar in the American League Central.
“I haven’t played in a month and it feels more like a year,” the 27-year-old Buxton said. “I’m fine to play right now, but it’s more about, ‘How will I feel tomorrow?’ It doesn’t bother me when I’m playing, but after.”
Fans apparently took note of Buxton’s hot start, as he’s third among AL outfielders in the All-Star Game voting announced Monday. Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout leads the vote ahead of New York Yankees powerhouse Aaron Judge and Buxton.
“It’s pretty cool,” Buxton said. “I didn’t expect that. I just want to get back out there.”
Seattle is scheduled to start left-hander Justus Sheffield (5-5, 4.91 ERA) in the series finale. Sheffield lasted a season-low four innings in his last outing, an 8-3 loss in Detroit on Thursday.
“This year, I feel like it’s been more of a roller-coaster season for me,” said Sheffield, who has yet to face the Twins in his career.
“It feels like I’ll have a good game and then I’ll have a tough game. Next game, good game, then a tough game. So it’s about finding that consistency. It’s the big leagues, and I know it’s gonna be tough at times, but I know that I’m fully capable of going out there and giving my all for my team and being a better pitcher than what I’ve shown so far.”
The Mariners are also hoping to get back a potential All-Star outfielder in Mitch Haniger, who has been sidelined since Sunday after fouling a ball off the inside of his left knee. Haniger took batting practice and fly balls before Tuesday’s game.
The Twins are set to send rookie right-hander Bailey Ober (0-0, 4.85) to the mound. Ober will be making his fourth career start and his first against Seattle.
Ober allowed two runs on seven hits in five innings of a no-decision against the Houston Astros on Friday.
–Field Level Media