Buxton in the hitting groove, but his defense even more impressive
By John Shipley
St. Paul Pioneer Press
DETROIT — Byron Buxton has started August the way he started the month last season: hitting.
The Twins center fielder entered Friday night’s game against the Tigers at Comerica Park hitting .226, but .290 since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 1, and .365 (with a .421 on-base percentage) since July 4.
More important, the Twins are 17-9 in those games, which is why manager Paul Molitor doesn’t settle on the offensive numbers when talking about the young outfielder’s play. Neither does second baseman Brian Dozier.
“People say, ‘Numbers don’t lie,’ “ Dozier said. “Numbers lie more than anything in the game. It’s biggest lie in all of sports, the numbers. Because that guy has changed the game for our pitching staff more than anybody. And I’m not talking about the running-up-against-the-wall catches; I’m talking about even little bloopers in the gaps, plays that people don’t really see.
“I don’t care if he hits .180; that guy changes the game more than anybody I’ve seen in this game over my six years, defensively.”
There are corresponding numbers. Buxton ranks first in Total Zone Runs (20) and Range Factor (3.12) for an outfielder, and his 1.9 Defensive Wins Above Replacement ranks fourth.
There also is anecdotal evidence.
“It’s not just the fact that his offense is coming around,” Molitor said. “He’s just a really impactful guy on our team because of the way he can play defense. I think everyone understands that we’re a different team when Byron’s out there patrolling center field.”
Buxton missed 14 games in July because of a groin strain that put him on the disabled list.
Molitor said the Twins have substantially altered the way Buxton hits — approach, swing, fundamentals — and it seems to be a fit.
“I’m not worried about where my foot’s supposed to land, or where I’m supposed to be in the box,” Buxton said. “It’s just more about see the ball, hit the ball.”
Dozier got some unique exposure during a 6-3 victory at Oakland on Aug. 28 when a television camera caught No. 2 going No. 1 in the visiting dugout bathroom.
A screen shot of the candid moment immediately made the rounds on Twitter and other social media.
“I thought it was hilarious,” Dozier said. “My wife actually reposted on her Instagram account and said, ‘At least he put the seat up.’ She gets on me a lot when I’ve got to go and don’t put the seat up.”
Oakland Coliseum, which broke ground in 1964, is a rare park with a bathroom in the dugout, and within view of the first baseline camera. No, he wasn’t embarrassed.
“That was the first game (of the series),” he said. “So, obviously it went viral on Twitter and all this stuff. So, you best believe, the next two games in Oakland, door open every time, hoping they get another shot. I was doing all kinds of different angles, but they just wanted the first one.”
NOT THE END
It appears Dietrich Enns will get at least another start, maybe as soon as Wednesday against first-place Cleveland at Target Field.
Acquired in the trade that sent Jaime Garcia to the Yankees on July 30, Enns made an odd major league debut on Thursday, pitching only 2 1/3 innings of his start in a 7-2 victory at Milwaukee. Molitor pulled him with one out and the bases loaded in the third. Reliever Alan Busenitz came in and got a double play to end the inning.
“It worked out,” Molitor said. “It could have misfired, too.”
With an off day Monday, the Twins have flexibility. Molitor said right-hander Bartolo Colon, 2-0 with a 2.25 earned-run average and 16 innings pitched his past two starts, is likely to open the Indians series.
“I do expect (Enns) to get another start,” the manager said. “We have an opportunity to pitch Enns against Cleveland on Wednesday, or anytime after that up until Saturday (against Arizona).”
Left-hander Glen Perkins threw a scoreless inning Friday for Double-A Chatanooga, giving up one hit. Molitor said he was throwing 89-90 mph. “Threw strikes, pitched inside, which was one of my concerns. … He’s always been a guy that pitched in. That’s always been his strength, especially to righties.” Perkins, a three-time all-star closer from Stillwater, is scheduled to pitch an inning each on Sunday and Monday.