MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton sat in the home clubhouse in early March in Fort Myers, Fla., discussing the plan that finally would keep him healthy and in the lineup for a full 162-game season.
Buxton, whose injury plagued 2019 season basically came to an end on Aug. 1 in Miami when he attempted to catch a triple off the bat of Harold Ramirez and tore the labrum in his left shoulder, had spent the offseason committed to lessening the speed and violence of his collisions with outfield walls. Buxton had studied video of how some top center fielders approached the position and also committed himself to jumping off two feet instead of one to lessen the impact.
The unknown at that point was how frequently Buxton would be in the lineup with the season set to start on March 26 in Oakland. Buxton had been scheduled to take live batting practice for the first time only two days before the season was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic and the Twins were proceeding with caution.
But with the Twins’ 60-game season now set to start on July 24 against the White Sox in Chicago, there is no question that he will be ready to go. The key, as always has been the case, will be having Buxton avoid collisions with walls and other high-risk situations. In addition to the injury against the Marlins, Buxton missed 13 games in June after being hit on the right wrist by a pitch and 10 more games after suffering a concussion in mid-July in Cleveland when he dived to make a catch.
“I’m one-hundred percent,” Buxton said Wednesday on a Zoom video conference. “(The additional break) gave me that time to fully get (the shoulder) healed, get it the way I wanted to and I’ve got no limits. I’m back to being myself and going out there and playing the game the right way.”
Buxton has the ability to be a special player, especially on defense, when he’s healthy. He hit .262 with 30 doubles, four triples, 10 homers, 46 RBIs and 14 stolen bases last season. He won a Gold Glove in 2017 as he played in 140 games. That’s the only year in which he has played in more than 92 games in five big-league seasons.
“I had a little bit more time to kind of figure out when to be aggressive and when to be a little bit more conservative,” Buxton said of what he did during the stoppage. “I worked a little bit more on jumping off two feet, that kind of keeps me in a little bit more control, especially toward the wall. That’s probably the biggest thing I worked on this offseason and over this break. Just little things to try to get that edge.”
Buxton’s arrival in Minnesota for the Twins’ summer camp at Target Field was delayed but there was a good reason for it. His wife, Lindsey, gave birth to the couple’s second child on Friday. Buxton arrived in the Twin Cities on Sunday but had to go through the intake process for COVID-19. He was cleared to take part in workouts and went 1-for-4 with a walk and made a nice catch in the Twins’ intrasquad game on Wednesday.
“It’s been pretty weird,” Buxton said of the situation. “Obviously, having a newborn, having to leave isn’t the ideal situation. But it is what it is and I just got here, so I’m still warming up to things a bit. It’s kind of awkward but I just have to adjust to it.”
Buxton said he got some help from his 6-year-old son, Brixton Scott, in coming up with a name for his new brother. The name: Blaze Jett Buxton. No pressure for the kid to be as fast as his father, right? “I asked my son what would he want to name his little brother,” Buxton said. “His first words were Blaze, so I just kind of took Blaze … it’s something Brix came up with. He kind of messed around with it for about six months and it’s something we liked so we stuck with it.”
Buxton is making no promises on foot speed between Brix and Blaze. “They both were pretty heavy,” he said. “(Blaze) actually weighed a little bit more than Brix, so it’s going to be a little tough to see who’s faster.”
Buxton isn’t sure if or when his family will be able to join him in Minnesota this season because of the circumstances.
“They’ve been around pretty much my whole career,” he said. “It’s awkward, it’s different this time around, obviously, with a newborn. Just getting used to that I guess is probably the toughest part. … Having a newborn is way more important but it is what it is. I’m going to be a family person first and take care of my kid first. Off days, I’m going to go home if they can’t make it up here and just kind of work it out like that.”