Way, way back! Buxton hits career-long HR

April 2nd, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- All that added muscle from this offseason sure did pay off for .

The Twins’ center fielder turned heads this spring when he arrived at camp with an added 10-15 pounds on his upper half, the labors of an offseason spent lifting weights -- two-a-day workouts, six days a week. Perhaps he was aiming to look more like the power hitter he proved to be in 2020, when a surprising surge helped him finish second on the club with 13 homers.

Buxton can now thank that added muscle for the longest homer of his career, a Statcast-projected 456-foot moonshot off the center-field scoreboard at American Family Field in the seventh inning of the Twins’ 6-5, 10-inning Opening Day loss to the Brewers on Thursday.

The crack of the bat immediately silenced the crowd of 11,740 in Milwaukee as the ball took off from Buxton’s bat at an exit velocity of 111.4 mph. Pitcher Eric Yardley dropped his head. Left fielder Christian Yelich didn’t even move. In center field, Lorenzo Cain turned around halfheartedly, took a few steps and watched the blast sail well over his head.

Buxton knew it, too. He watched it fly, jogged a few steps, dropped his bat and took the easy trot around the basepaths following his career-best clout -- which surpassed a 454-foot blast off Cleveland left-hander Tyler Olson on June 5, 2019, at Progressive Field.

"The ball left his bat in a pretty impressive way,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think everybody in the building knew that it was long gone and to a pretty deep part of the ballpark as well. It's just a good swing.”

Most other days, the 5-2 lead afforded by Buxton’s blast would have led to a triumph. This time, though, a ninth-inning rally by the Brewers against Alex Colomé simply made it the most explosive part of a losing effort in extra innings.

The speedy center fielder also did a lot of jogging around the basepaths last season, when he came out of nowhere to finish second on the Twins with a career-high .577 slugging percentage -- much of it on the back of his eight homers in September. Baldelli responded to Buxton’s newfound power stroke by moving him in the lineup this spring, bumping him up to sixth in his Opening Day order.

“Buck's a very dangerous hitter,” Baldelli said. “You don't know when it's going to happen, of course, but when he impacts the ball, it's visible and it affects the game in a big way. And that was a big swing. I mean, that ultimately could have been the difference for us, and it was in a big moment when we needed the cushion."

Don’t let all that jogging and slugging fool you into thinking Buxton has slowed down, though. He made a point to meet with his high school track coach in Georgia several times in January before reporting to camp, working hard to make sure he wasn’t trading speed for power. Buxton reminded the baseball world, too, that he’s still got the blazing speed that first put him on the map with an uncontested steal of second base in the fifth inning, following a rare walk. He added another walk in the ninth inning, matching his total from the entire 2020 season.

“For the most part, I don't feel no slower even with the weight I've picked up,” Buxton said this spring. “That's always a plus. [As] long as I'm not getting slower, I'm good. Being a fast guy has always been a plus.”

This version of Buxton -- the walking, basestealing, moonshot-hitting one -- may be the final form that the Twins envisioned when they selected him second overall in the 2012 Draft. And the hope is that all this extra muscle on his frame might help his body be a little less injury-prone, too.

“It was a pretty interesting offseason,” Buxton said. “Worked hard. Lifted weights pretty hard. Got after it pretty good.”