Buxton makes MLB's first 5-star catch of '17

Buxton makes MLB's first 5-star catch of '17

MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton didn't waste any time showing off his defensive prowess, as the center fielder made the first five-star catch in the Majors this season, robbing the Royals' Alex Gordon with a diving catch in center to end the top of the third inning of the Twins' 7-1 Opening Day win on Monday.

Gordon's liner to left off Ervin Santana had an exit velocity of 106 mph and traveled 289 feet, but Buxton made a great read and tracked it down to make a diving snare. It had a catch probability of 24 percent, which rates as a five-star catch, according to Statcast™.

Catch probability is on a scale of 0 to 100, and it is essentially based on how far the fielder had to go and how much time he had to get there. Buxton had 2.9 seconds to get to Gordon's liner, which was projected to land 36 feet away from where Buxton was positioned in center.

"When you hit the ball to him, you kinda of tippy-toe to first base, hoping it might drop, but knowing it might not," said Gordon, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner. "He's really athletic. We'll be seeing those catches for a while."

Buxton had six five-star catches in 2016, converting 24 percent of his five-star chances. The Twins led the Majors with 18 such catches last year.

"Us outfielders have this thing where nothing falls but raindrops," Buxton said. "We take that to heart and want to be the best outfield out there. We're trying to be aggressive to every line drive and foul ball we can be. We know we'll have backup, so it allows us to play freely."

Buxton made another diving grab in the fifth, but much of the difficulty was his own doing, as he stepped back and slipped before recovering in time to make the play. It's hard to say he robbed Paulo Orlando of a hit, however, as the play had a 98 percent catch probability, but Buxton showed off his ability to recover when he doesn't make a great read. Buxton needed to go 50 feet to reach the ball, but ran 64 feet, meaning he covered 14 extraneous feet because of his misread.

Statcast: Buxton's two catches

"It was just a bad jump," Buxton said. "I thought he hit it better than he did. It went off the end of the bat, but I broke back first. I slipped, but luckily I'm fast, made it up with my speed and made the play."

Twins manager Paul Molitor was impressed by both plays, and like Buxton, noted that it's part of an outfield philosophy brought in by new outfield coach Jeff Pickler to play shallower and take risks.

"We've been working hard on these guys taking chances to make plays," Molitor said. "We've kind of changed the philosophy to get them shallowed up to utilize their skills. He got a great jump on the first one, but the second one with the wet grass, he slipped a little bit, but made an outstanding recovery."

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.