Buxton hits 2 doubles, scores twice in return
CHICAGO -- Byron Buxton is back with the Twins, who activated the center fielder prior to Thursday's series opener against the White Sox and slotted him ninth in the batting order.
After striking out in his first at-bat, Buxton reached on a fielder's choice and scored on Max Kepler's homer, the third of five record-setting homers the Twins hit in a 10-3 win. He added two doubles and scored one more run in a 2-for-4 performance.
Outfielder Jake Cave was optioned to Triple-A Rochester to make room for Buxton.
Buxton was on the 10-day injured list with concussion-like symptoms, which he started experiencing after hitting his head on the ground making a diving play in Cleveland on July 13.
“I'm excited. It's been a while since I've been out there,” Buxton said. "I'm just ready to get back out there and do the things I love doing and try to help us win more games and relax a little bit more.”
“Buck, we talk about it all the time -- he means a tremendous amount to everything we do here," said manager Rocco Baldelli. "I think every player in our clubhouse feeds off him in a lot of different ways. I think he makes our team go in a lot of different ways. Getting him back out there in center field, getting him back into the lineup and seeing him run around out there will get us going nicely.”
Buxton also had his wisdom teeth pulled last week in an effort to help his ongoing issues with migraines.
“It ain't fun. It is what it is -- part of life," Buxton said. "But it's nothing I wish upon nobody. They said, 'Eventually you're going to have to get your teeth pulled.' My wisdom teeth didn't start coming through until about Spring Training. It was one of those things that kind of built over the season and hit me the same time as I was getting those migraines, so that didn't help too much."
The 25-year-old Buxton is batting .249/.308/.490 with nine home runs, 13 stolen bases and 42 RBIs in 75 games. He's also tied with the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier as the second-best defensive outfielder in the Majors by Statcast's Outs Above Average metric, at +12.
Although the Twins are excited their defensive stalwart has returned and hope his injuries are behind him, they are not looking for him to change the way he plays.
“Some guys play with tremendous energy and go after the ball aggressively and are on their toes every pitch,” Baldelli said. “You’d be taking so much away from a guy that plays the game like Byron Buxton by asking him to change the way he plays.
“There are ways to taper what he’s doing or ask him to -- we talked to him about playing a little bit deeper -- I actually think that’s probably helped him in some ways. There are several plays this year where he’s been able to make a play near the wall and also protect himself in some ways by not having to go full speed to make a catch. Or if he’s playing 15 feet shallower and he catches that same ball, the only way he catches it is by running as fast as he possibly can five feet from the wall and he runs directly in the wall, most likely.”
The team also recalled right-hander Sean Poppen from Triple-A and optioned left-hander Devin Smeltzer as part of Thursday's series of roster moves.
Poppen, 25, appeared in 11 games (eight starts) for the Red Wings this season, going 5-1 with a 3.77 ERA, 25 walks and 62 strikeouts. He was previously recalled by the Twins on June 19 and pitched in relief that night against the Red Sox, allowing three runs on five hits over four innings, with four walks and two strikeouts.
He appeared in relief in Thursday's win, pitching two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out three.
Smeltzer, who was recalled on Wednesday, pitched the final five innings that night against the Yankees, allowing one run on five hits with four strikeouts. He has a 2.91 ERA with four walks and 17 strikeouts in four games (two starts) for the Twins this season.
Cave appeared in 35 games for the Twins, hitting .193 with three doubles, two home runs, 10 walks and nine RBIs.