Twins willing to be patient with Buxton

Twins willing to be patient with Buxton

CHICAGO -- The learning process continues for Byron Buxton, but that's not why he remains in the Major Leagues despite his ongoing struggles at the plate.

"I don't believe in that," general manager Terry Ryan said on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field, where Buxton started in center field and hit ninth against the White Sox. "I don't believe in a guy just being here [and saying], 'Let's let him learn up here.' I don't like that at all. There are 24 other players on this team that want to win baseball games."

So why is Buxton getting the majority of starts in center, in his second stint with the Twins this season, despite a .188 batting average entering Wednesday?

The answer involves all the other ways Buxton's athleticism helps the Twins on a daily basis. Hitting is just one part of it, and the club hopes he'll turn that part around over time.

"You're going to probably equate his progress with the bat only, because he can field, he can run, he can throw [and] he has range," Ryan said. "He does a nice job in center, and that helps us."

What's been troublesome is his strikeout totals, both this season and when he made his Major League debut in Minnesota last season. Buxton struck out 44 times in 46 games in 2015 and had fanned 56 times in 41 games going into Wednesday's game.

"We're willing to live with some of the things that go on with that bat, and as long as he gets in that strike zone, he has a chance to be a figure in that lineup," Ryan said. "We've got him down in the nine-hole, and all he has to do is keep the chains moving, and he'll be fine. But it's been a battle. Recently, it's been pretty evident they're working him over pretty good."

Breaking pitches out of the zone, moving down and away, have proven to be the biggest issue of late. Buxton's been chasing those pitches, not making contact and negating his plus speed in the process. His numbers have plummeted, as well.

"I'm just pushing my numbers to the side," said Buxton, who was taken second overall by the Twins in the 2012 Draft, behind Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. "I've struggled early on at every level, so numbers don't really bother me. It just took time for me to adjust and figure it out. Here it's just taking me a little bit longer than I want it to, and it's more frustrating to me because it's taking longer, but at the same time, I'm starting to understand it's a process and I've just got to keep grinding and keep going up there and battling."

Letting that process unfold takes patience, but manager Paul Molitor thinks Buxton will be worth it. He sees all the tools of a top player and is willing to wait it out.

"I think that you have to be careful to not fall into the trap, whether you're a part of this organization or a fan of the team, that you just assume a guy with that type of talent and expectation and the hype is just going to meander in here and become a star," Molitor said. "It's not that easy. It's still very, very early in this guy's baseball journey. So we look for positives. We continue to try to teach. He absorbs really well, and I think over time we're going to see all the predictions [about him] come to fruition. But you've just got to let it happen. You can't force it before it's time. You keep putting him out there and giving him an opportunity to get better."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Trevor May, who's on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester, is scheduled to make back-to-back relief appearances on Friday and Saturday. May has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 10 with spasms in his lower back. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and one save in two appearances (1 2/3 innings) for the Red Wings.

Miguel Sano, who was placed on the DL on June 1 with a strained left hamstring, is hitting .158 through six games with Rochester. Two of his three hits have been home runs, but Molitor said the results are not what the Twins are assessing.

"I just think you're looking for signs that the lack of game appearances over the past three and a half weeks, [that it] kind of looks like his at-bats are normal," Molitor said. "It's not always results or a hot streak."

Sano will play both games of Rochester's doubleheader on Thursday. He'll play the first game at third base and serve as designated hitter in the nightcap.

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.