Notebook: Speedy Buxton to start in minors but glad for big-league shot

Byron Buxton turns heads with his speed, but acting Minnesota Twins general manager Rob Antony said he's not "in the mix right now" to play center field with the big-league club.

Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, who was 0-for-5 in Minnesota's 3-1 spring-training loss to the Miami Marlins, nearly beat out two infield grounders on Tuesday.

Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. -- Twins prospect Byron Buxton turned some heads Tuesday during his first Grapefruit League start of the spring -- and he did so while making an out on the bases.

Despite finishing 0-for-5 in Minnesota's 3-1 loss to the Miami Marlins, Buxton flashed his speed on the base paths in two separate at-bats. On a slow roller to second base in the top of the third inning, Buxton sprinted to first base and nearly reached safely, drawing a few oohs and aahs from the crowd. The same thing happened one inning later when Buxton turned on the jets and made things interesting on a grounder to third.

"He flies. He can run," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He hits a ground ball and you're thinking it's going to be routine, and there it is, bam-bam at first base. That's what he does. He plays and he plays hard."

Added Buxton: "No matter how it's hit, I'm going to always hustle."

Buxton played the entire nine innings Tuesday at Roger Dean Stadium as Minnesota didn't have any other option in center field. Max Kepler was the Twins' fourth and final outfielder who made the trip, and he entered the game as a pinch runner in the fifth inning for right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. Buxton and left fielder Darin Mastroianni were the only two Twins players to play the whole game.

Minor league players report to Fort Myers today, with things getting underway on the minor league side of camp on Wednesday. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked before Tuesday's game how long he plans on keeping Buxton in major league camp.

"I have plenty of plans. Sometimes my plans go awry," Gardenhire said. "We don't have to do anything until the 10th. . . . I'd like to see the kid play here, and then we'll see how he does. (General manager Terry Ryan's) not here. I might just sneak him into my lineup."

Assistant general manager Rob Antony, who has filled the void with Ryan back home undergoing treatment for cancer, said he'd notice if Gardenhire tried to keep Buxton for Opening Day. Antony iterated that it's unlikely Buxton breaks camp with the team. Still, these games with the major league club give the Twins' staff an extended look at the top-rated prospect in all of baseball.

"I don't think he's in the mix right now," Antony said of Buxton's chance at making the 25-man roster. "Last year we came in with an open competition in center field. There is competition (this year) for center field, but for a player of his ability who hasn't played above High-A ball, I think it would be a stretch to throw him in there, and I don't see a reason we would want to do that right now."

Coming off the bench has been a new adjustment for Buxton this spring, but Tuesday gave him his first chance to start. Despite showing patience at the plate, Buxton flew out three times and grounded out twice, but he relished the opportunity to play a full nine innings in a big league game.

"It's baseball. You start some, you don't start some," Buxton said. "I'm just glad I got the opportunity to get out and start a game for us. It didn't turn out the way we wanted, but we still had a pretty good game."

Buxton's time in big league camp may be ticking, but he's not focused on what lies ahead this spring.

"I don't know quite when the (minor league) games start," he said. "I'm going to keep playing every day like it's my last."

Date set for Sano's surgery: Antony said third base prospect Miguel Sano will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on March 12 in New York. Dr. David Altchek will perform the surgery.

Antony said Sano will be examined Wednesday morning before the surgery. Following the procedure, Sano will return to Fort Myers to begin his rehab.

The Twins announced on Sunday that Sano will miss the 2014 season after it was determined that a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) hadn't gotten any better since the injury was first diagnosed in November. The initial plan for Sano was to rehab the elbow with the hope of avoiding surgery, but it was ultimately determined that Tommy John surgery would indeed be necessary.

Until Tuesday, Minnesota did not have a date set for the surgery. Sano left Fort Myers to be with his family in the Dominican Republic before the surgery. Antony said Sano might briefly stay in New York with his agent, Rob Plummer, before heading back to Fort Myers for rehab.

Replay gets positive review from Gardenhire: Many managers in Major League Baseball like to argue with umpires, Gardenhire certainly falls into that category. Yet with the new MLB rules that allow managers to challenge questionable calls, Gardenhire may not have to make his way out of the dugout as often.

Gardenhire was on the road with one of the Twins' split squad teams Monday when the new instant replay system was tested out at Hammond Stadium, but everything he heard from his staff was positive.

"They were all excited about it. They got to do it and got to see how it's going to work a little bit," Gardenhire said Tuesday. "There's still questions. There's a lot of questions on strategy and all that stuff. I think each manager's going to do it different, and the game's going to dictate it."

Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter

Send feedback on our
new story page