Preview: Twins vs. Tigers
MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton is still trying to find his stroke since coming off the 10-game disabled list May 10, but Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor believes the center fielder is about to turn a corner.
Molitor has sat Buxton twice since his return and had a chat with him during the weekend in hopes of getting him back on track.
Molitor and the Twins are hoping those things pay off Monday night in the opener of a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers at Target Field.
“Just tried to get a feel of where he was at and I tried to affirm him about his ability to hit,” Molitor said. “I think he knows it. He knows when he puts too much pressure on himself and tries to do too much and overthinks his at-bats.”
He went 1-for-3 and stole his first stolen base since April 12 on Sunday as the Twins avoided a sweep with a 3-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. He also scored on Max Kepler‘s single.
Buxton is hitting .164 this season and is 3-for-26 since returning from the combination of migraines and a toe injury.
“Sometimes the feel can come back with a swing or two,” Molitor said. “The big thing is to get to where he’s putting himself in a good position while he’s recognizing what the pitch is, not guessing and predetermining swings. I think he’s hit only one ball to the right side since he’s been back.”
Right-hander Jose Berrios gets the start for Minnesota. He has a 4.82 ERA in three starts this month but struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings of a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday and bounced back from four straight rough outings.
Berrios is 2-1 with an 11.74 ERA in five appearances (four starts) against the Tigers. Both wins occurred last year when Berrios posted a 7.45 ERA against Detroit.
Hardy made his first career start on May 13 when he allowed two runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners in Detroit’s 5-4 victory.
Hardy has made 17 career relief appearances against the Twins, posting a 3.78 ERA.
He will be trying to get the Tigers back on track after they were swept during the weekend in Seattle, including a 3-2 heartbreaker in 11 innings on Sunday afternoon. Detroit blew late leads, squandering a four-run advantage Thursday and a two-run lead Sunday when Francisco Liriano carried a no-hitter into the seventh.
The Tigers have managed to go 9-9 this month despite playing most of May without first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who has been on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring.
The 35-year-old took multiple rounds of batting practice during the weekend. After resting Sunday, he will do so again before the game Monday night.
“He hasn’t run the bases or anything like that. So we’ve got to get him out on the bases,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to get him fielding ground balls. He took some ground balls (Saturday), a little bit, 10 or 15 ground balls. Not really doing much movement. Just standing, infield-in type thing.
“There’s things he has to get done to prove to himself and everybody else that he can really get out there and play the game, and dive around and all those things.”
Gardenhire is returning to Target Field as a manager for the first time since he was fired by the Twins at the end of the 2014 season.
He spent 13 years on the bench in Minnesota, leading the team to a 1,068-1,039 record, including a 6-21 mark in six postseason appearances.