Suspension Presents Twins a Silver Lining
Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsDespite what little information we have on where Byron Buxton had been in regards to appearing in game action, there seemed to be a zero percent chance he’d have been ready for Opening Day. Having just begun to face live pitching this week, and take some hacks at near 100%, the runway for ramp up time simply was not long enough. Less than 10 games remaining before Opening Day, getting acclimated would have been a problem.
As good as Minnesota is, there’s arguably no more valuable player to the team than their centerfielder. In games he played last year, the Twins went 62-25. A .713 winning percentage is truly unprecedented, and while his .827 OPS is glowing offensively, it’s the glue he provides to the defensive strategy as a whole. Max Kepler is a potentially elite fielder but is a bit more stretched in center. Utilizing Marwin Gonzalez or Jake Cave in the outfield is a step back as well. The Twins curbed some of their overall defensive issues by acquired an elite stopper at third in Josh Donaldson, but it’s Buxton that’s the linchpin for the greater whole.
Now with something like a month to prepare for Opening Day, Buxton should have ample opportunity to get right. He was progressing towards game action and will now have a similar opportunity to everyone else in regards to ramp up. Healing can continue to take place, and regardless of the direction players are given, process driven drills can continue to happen.
The other substantial come up here is on the mound. All offseason the front office sought impact pitching. Eventually they acquired an arm that fit the bill in the form of Kenta Maeda, but it was his former and current teammate Rich Hill that also posted numbers of importance.
Expected back sometime in the early summer, Hill is coming off a campaign in which he posted a 2.45 ERA and 11.0 K/9. Yes, injuries have been his bugaboo, but they’ve also been something he’s come through unscathed while being more than dominant when healthy. Rather than trudging through a couple months’ worth of games piecing together the back end of their rotation, Hill could provide a spark just weeks into the season.
Having pushed their chips in this offseason, it would only make sense that the Twins look at acquiring more arm talent around the trade deadline. We won’t know how that could be impacted until the logistics of this whole scheduling mess get figured out, but internally Minnesota will now see an intended boost on the bump sooner rather than later.
In all of this, we continue to wade through uncharted territory. The vibe around Twins camp was different over the past couple of days, and the measures put in place were like things never before imagined. Ultimately though, baseball will return. There will be another day, there will be a season, and the same opportunity to push towards a World Series is on the horizon for Rocco Baldelli’s squad.
We’re going to need to wait a bit longer this time around, but the reward of two substantial assets being more readily available is one that could pay big dividends.
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