FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rocco Baldelli is accustomed to being wowed by Byron Buxton.
Whether it’s using his speed to turn a single into a double, tracking down a ball in the gap that others would simply be nowhere near, or any number of other things, the Twins’ dynamic center fielder spends a lot of time impressing his coaches and teammates with the things he can accomplish on the diamond.
But the first “Wow,” of spring came right when Buxton walked in the door, before he even stepped onto the field.
“Physically watching Buck walk into the ballpark was kind of a ‘Wow’ moment in a lot of ways. I mean, he’s obviously a great athlete and we know him very well,” the Twins manager said. “We know what we’re getting physically and with the things he can do. But, you know, seeing him come in after putting on 10 or 15 pounds of … there’s just muscle there.”
When Buxton, who played at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds last season, was healthy in 2020, the Twins were 26-13 in games he played. They went 10-11 in games he did not. Buxton’s 2.1 bWAR (Baseball-Reference’s calculation for Wins Above Replacement) led the Twins, and after hitting 13 home runs in 39 games while continuing to provide elite defense, he went home and spent his offseason putting on more muscle.
Baldelli said the 27-year-old center fielder also spent time working with his track coach back home in Baxley, Ga., as he continued to improve himself as an athlete.
“It wasn’t just putting on size and leaving it at that. He spent the offseason really, really working to help better himself,” Baldelli said. “And it was obvious when he walked in the door.”
Sano watches, learns
A year ago, Miguel Sano was reporting to camp with a tall task in front of him: learning a new position. The Twins had just signed Josh Donaldson to play third base, and with that came a whole new challenge for Sano, who had limited experience at first base.
He spent the year working closely with third-base coach Tony Diaz, who is in charge of infield instruction. And last spring, former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau served as a mentor to him as he tried to learn the new position as quickly as possible.
This spring, Sano reported to camp with an additional level of comfort at his new position after spending an offseason doing work with Fernando Tatis Sr., who he said has helped him learn how to defend specific hitters and has taught him the little ins and outs of how to move around the base. He also watched video of Morneau, Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols playing the position.
“Sometimes you can learn by just watching someone else,” Sano said. “In this case, I did by video, but if you get to do it in person, that helps, too. But I did my videos during the offseason, watching those three, how they play first base and how they go about their business.”
— Devin Smeltzer will the the starting pitcher for the Twins during their first exhibition game on Sunday. The Twins will host the Red Sox, and the game, which begins at 12:05 p.m. CT, will be broadcast on the radio.
— Shortstop Andrelton Simmons still has not participated in camp, with his arrival being held up due to visa issues. The Twins are expecting him to be able to participate in camp soon and are not concerned with the delayed arrival.
“We’re obviously still in a pretty good spot, where he’s down here anytime over the next week,” Baldelli said. “I don’t think there’s going to be much to be concerned about. He’ll get plenty of work and plenty of at-bats.”