Byron Buxton takes an extra day to get straight

20 July 2023

SEATTLE — Byron Buxton’s day off became a two-day hiatus on Wednesday. Instead of starting in the lineup for a late start of a late first pitch against the Mariners, the Twins designated hitter focused on adjustments to his swing.

“Some minor adjustments,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “but some adjustments.”

After going 0 for 5 with three strikeouts in Monday’s 7-6 loss to the Mariners, Buxton was hitting .196 with an on-base percentage of .192. He ranks second among teammates with 15 home runs and 36 runs batted but has one hit, a single, in his past 31 at-bats.

On Wednesday, he took private batting practice with hitting coaches at T-Mobile Stadium.

“I’m probably overthinking a little bit, so, yeah, (two days off) makes sense a little bit,” Buxton said. “I’m just trying to get back to being who I am.”

That would be the healthy Byron Buxton, the one who hit .306 with 19 home runs and 32 RBIs in 62 games in 2021, and the one whose torrid start last season — .290 with nine homers and 17 RBIs in his first 18 games — helped make him a 2022 American League All-Star.

But Buxton isn’t healthy. Not entirely. After missing all of September and a week in October because of hip and knee injuries last season, Buxton has been limited to designated hitter for all 77 of his games.

Baldelli said Tuesday that Buxton has broached the topic of maybe putting him back in center field — where he started in last year’s all-star game — he just isn’t healthy enough to take the wear and tear.

“This isn’t a question of what he wants to do. It’s a question of, what is he physically capable of doing?” the manager said.

Buxton, one of the best center fielders in baseball, really, since he first made the majors for 46 games in 2015, was asked if that’s a difficult mental adjustment.

“Not mentally,” he said. “It’s more emotional, just because you can’t go out there, and if I am in these kinds of slumps, you can’t go out there and take that away from somebody else.

“So, I wouldn’t necessarily say mentally. Mentally, I think, it’s just more of just not crowding your head when you’re going through slumps like this. Emotionally, it’s that excitement you get on the back end.”

After 77 games, Buxton is still trying to find a routine between at-bats.

“It’s not like old school, where you’ve got guys that go in and play a PlayStation,” he said. “(Or) guys that go in there and put on their headphones and listen to music, or whatever the situation may be. So, it’s a little bit different.”

Instead, Buxton spends a lot of time in the batting cage while his teammates are in the field. “Probably too much time,” he said.

Baldelli said he’s committed to Buxton as his designated hitter despite the slump.

“Buck is far from the only guy I’ve ever seen get a two-day window,” the manager said. “I’ve seen guys — I’m probably not going to be able to place it — but I’ve seen everyday players get three days off, where they’re just going to sit for three and get a little bit of time to collect themselves.”

Watching the Twins pound out 14 hits and score 10 runs in Tuesday’s 10-3 victory over the Mariners was good for him, Buxton said.

“It gives you that idea: ‘Just relax a little bit,’ ” he said.

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