After 12-hour trek, prospect hits homer in first game back
By Do-Hyoung Park
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the official transaction report, the morning of Sept. 1, 2016, reads "Minnesota Twins recalled Byron Buxton from Rochester Red Wings" as Buxton became the Twins' first September callup with the rosters expanding.
But Buxton's journey from Rochester to Minneapolis on Thursday was far more dramatic than that one sentence would suggest -- a journey that began in Rochester at 3:15 a.m. and ended with him hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat back with the Twins in Minnesota's 8-5 victory over the White Sox.
It's a 50-minute drive through the back roads of upstate New York to get to the airport, but midway through the journey, Buxton's rented car got a flat. Buxton had to walk three miles to find help.
After finally getting his car serviced and moving his flight back to 9 a.m., Buxton was able to get to the airport and fly to Minneapolis -- only to find that his car at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport was missing. So after looking for 1 1/2 hours, he finally had to check with security, who revealed to him that they had the car.
Buxton, sweatpants and all, finally walked into the Twins' clubhouse at 3:30 p.m. -- 3 1/2 hours before Thursday's game, in which he was slated to hit ninth and start in center field.
It was lucky for the Twins that Buxton's travails didn't keep him from getting to Target Field, as his homer proved crucial in the club's win that snapped a 13-game losing streak.
"It feels great," Buxton said. "It makes it even better that we won, especially after the two weeks we've had here, just going out there and playing side by side with these guys is all I could ask for, and I'm just very thankful that I got an opportunity to come back up here, and help us win."
After the Twins hit four straight one-out singles off White Sox starter Jose Quintana in the second, Buxton capped the five-run rally by pulling a curveball to the second deck in left field, which traveled an estimated 403 feet, per Statcast™. It was his first Major League homer since June 13 against the Angels.
"You want to argue you want to see the consistent contact, a guy that finds a way to get on base and utilize his speed," said manager Paul Molitor. "But we'll take the homers when they come, especially on a night like tonight, a big three-run homer for him."
Buxton had been swinging the bat well recently in Triple-A after working on his swing, as he homered four times last week en route to winning International League Batter of the Week honors. He hit .257 with five homers, two doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs in 20 games following the demotion. But he also struck out 31 times in 78 plate appearances.
Molitor and Buxton both agreed that at this point, whether it's a good day or a bad day at the plate, every appearance at the Major League level is important for Buxton's development in the long run. As has been the case with fellow top prospect Jose Berrios, Buxton has been excellent at the Triple-A level, but hasn't been able to translate that success to the Majors.
Buxton gives the Twins a needed healthy outfielder, as Robbie Grossman has been bothered by a sore oblique and isn't expected to swing a bat for several days. He's expected to see time in center with Logan Schafer, who was called up on Monday and will get looks at the corner outfield positions as well.
The Twins had thought about leaving Buxton in Triple-A until the end of the Minor League season on Sept. 5, but chose to recall him earlier due to the matchups against the White Sox in the four-game series. With the Twins starting three left-handed hitters in the outfield and the White Sox scheduled to start two left-handed pitchers in the series, Molitor felt that a right-handed outfielder was needed.
"It's kind of a need right now in terms of the timing of it, but it doesn't mean that we wouldn't have seen him here eventually," Molitor said.
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.