Buxton shows improvement, but return up in air

Buxton shows improvement, but return up in air

CLEVELAND -- Center fielder Byron Buxton has been swinging a hot bat since being sent to Triple-A Rochester on April 25, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said there's no timetable for when he'll be called back up.

Buxton, who entered the year as MLBPipeline.com's No. 2 overall prospect, struggled in 17 games with the Twins, hitting .156/.208/.289. But he's been much better at Triple-A, batting .301/.356/.494 with three homers, five doubles, a triple and two stolen bases in 20 games. He left Saturday's game because of a minor back issue, but it was for precautionary reasons, and he could be back in the lineup as soon as Monday after a rainout on Sunday.

"We get fairly detailed reports of not just the numbers from the game, but the swings and the approach in certain situations," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "There's been a positive vibe about how he's going about his business with his strike zone knowledge and contact and things we're looking for."

Molitor has been encouraged by Buxton's ability to put the ball in play, as he's struck out 21 times in 90 plate appearances in the Minors, compared with 24 strikeouts in 49 plate appearances in the Majors.

"He's hitting over .300 now, and his strikeouts aren't one out of every two [plate appearances], it's more like one out of four or five," Molitor said. "He's putting it into play. But the one thing I haven't heard about is his bunting. I told him before he went down to keep that in mind."

Molitor hasn't talked with general manager Terry Ryan about when Buxton will be back up, but said that if he keeps it going, he'll certainly be considered.

"It sounds like he's playing a lot more confidently, which is an important part of it," Molitor said. "I don't know how long or what the right thing is yet. We haven't really had that discussion. But I think it's good to have him down there playing every day. I'm not sure how long it'll take before we decide to give him another shot up here, but he needs to continue to do what he's been doing."

Danny Santana has been Minnesota's regular center fielder in Buxton's absence, hitting .260/.280/.356 with seven stolen bases in 20 games. Santana, a natural shortstop, has made 84 career starts in center, so there's still a learning curve, but Molitor has generally liked what he's seen defensively.

"Danny has been good," Molitor said. "His amount of games in center field is not very high, even when you combine the last couple years he's been out there. But I like some of the things he's doing, and he's getting more comfortable with his back to the wall. The reads are good, and he's aggressive. He's made most of the plays. There have been a couple plays he hasn't made, where it would have taken an exceptional play to make the catch, but he's also run down some balls I didn't think he had a chance on."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.