Buxton uses speed to score winning run in MLB debut

BY foxsports • June 14, 2015

After years of hype and plenty of excitement leading up to Byron Buxton's Minnesota Twins debut, it was highly unlikely that Sunday could live up to all the expectations.

Sure enough, the 21-year-old Buxton went hitless in his first big league game Sunday against the Texas Rangers. But the Twins center fielder used arguably his best tool -- his speed -- to impact the game and score the winning run in Minnesota's 4-3 victory.

The Twins selected Buxton's contract prior to Sunday's game as he made the jump from Double-A Chattanooga to the big leagues. A former No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton had been putting up impressive numbers in the minor leagues. His injury-plagued 2014 season appeared to be fully behind him, and Minnesota's front office decided the time was now to call up the Twins' top prospect.

After going hitless in his first three at-bats, Buxton finally reached base in the top of the ninth inning. It wasn't exactly as the Twins drew it up, though, as Buxton attempted a sacrifice bunt with Eduardo Escobar on second base after a leadoff double. As Buxton's bunt was fielded near the pitcher's mound, Escobar was thrown out at third base while Buxton reached first base.

That's when Buxton finally got to show off his speed. With two outs in the ninth, fellow rookie Eddie Rosario hit a deep drive to the gap in right-center field. Buxton was off with contact and galloped around the bases to score the go-ahead run with ease. Buxton was nearly to third base before the ball landed on the warning track, leaving the Rangers outfielders with no chance to make a play at the plate.

Buxton might have been 0-for-4 in his big league debut, but the top prospect in baseball still found a way to make his mark and help the Twins win a game.

"I'm really just glad we got the win," Buxton said afterward. "First game here, all you want to do is come out and get a win. I don't really care how I did. I wish I could have done better to help the team out, but I'm still just glad we got the win.

Buxton's first major league at-bat came in the top of the second inning with the Twins leading 2-0. Buxton struck out on four pitches, swinging and missing at a ball in the dirt off the plate to end the inning.

His second at-bat saw a ball put in play, but Buxton was retired once again. He hit a sharp grounder to Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo, who had to hurry with the throw to beat the speedy Buxton at first base for the first out of the fifth inning.

Buxton's third crack at his first big league hit yielded a similar result as his first plate appearance. The Twins had already tripled three times in the sixth inning before Buxton came to the plate. Buxton, who hit 12 triples in 59 games with Double-A Chattanooga this season, failed to follow the triple trend and instead struck out for the second time in the game to end the inning with a runner on third base.

The fourth time was the charm for Buxton, who didn't get a hit but did wind up scoring the winning run. Since he was taken No. 2 overall in 2012, Buxton's speed has been the tool scouts have raved about the most.

That was on full display Sunday in Arlington.

"I'm sure it's kind of tough being Byron Buxton right now, just with all the media coverage and all that," said Twins left fielder Shane Robinson, who had two triples in Sunday's win. "Knowing the guy and knowing how good of a person he is, I know he doesn't like (the attention). He probably wouldn't care for it too much, but he does a good job of keeping his head down and doing what he needs to do when he gets out on the field.  . . . He's got great speed. You saw it on the bases today."

Though Buxton should eventually profile as a leadoff hitter in the Twins' lineup, manager Paul Molitor penciled in Buxton ninth in the batting order. The reasoning, Molitor said, was to alleviate some of the pressure for a prospect who already had plenty of it placed upon him.

Buxton's first big league game is now in the books, and it'll go down as a win regardless of his stat line. The Twins hope there are many, many more games to come from the talented outfielder.

"I think everyone's excited to have him around," Molitor said after the game. "Every time he goes out there, I think he's smart enough to learn from his experiences, good and bad. We'll get him back in there tomorrow."

FOX Sports North's Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.

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