Byron Buxton May Finally Understand His Health Matters More Than One Highlight

Photo: Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton last played center field on August 22, 2022 in a game against the Texas Rangers. He then spent all of 2023 pretending to be a designated hitter, something he wasn’t very good at. But 554 days later, he finally returned to his home in the outfield during the Twins fourth spring training game of 2024 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

As we all remember, during the last season, Buxton was limited to the role of DH, appearing in 85 games with a .207 batting average and 17 home runs. Even during the playoffs, where he continued as DH, he didn’t showcase his usual impact.

Buxton’s outing was short. He logged four innings in the field and and two at bats (0-2). We did have a noteworthy event take place, however. Phillies shortstop Trea Turner hit a ball in Buxton’s direction but it would not have been a routine catch, or anything close.

Byron Buxton shows he’s smartening up in the outfield

So instead of risking injury his first time back out in center, by diving and trying to make a spectacular play that nobody would remember (today’s game wasn’t even on TV), Buxton showed restraint, and opted not to risk life and limb, letting the ball sail over his head instead.

Is this actually happening? Has Byron Buxton finally decided his health is more important than one out or a couple runs during a 162-game season? Big if true. Most of us have known for some time that one highlight reel catch is not worth losing Buxton for extended periods of time.

Can Buxton be safe playing center field for Minnesota Twins?

But that hasn’t always been the case for Buck, who for a long time refused to give up on his reckless outfield ways. Even when we get to the regular season, Byron will have to pick and choose when he risks his body and how much risk he puts it in.

Of course, there are different levels of danger included with every play Buxton will make in center. Most of them, he will be in very little danger. Run this way, run that way, catch ball, throw ball back to infield. Others will require a higher level of difficulty, but still should not result in injury.

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You’ll see outfielders slide on their knees or butt, while running in toward the infield. Maybe a dive while running left or right, without any walls or people around. Believe it or not, outfielders can have attempted to rob homeruns without running 25 MPH just before contact. This was Byron Buxton playing a spring training game in 2022.

Again, this isn’t a black or white thing. There is a lot of gray area and it will be Byron Buxton’s job to decide where he lives within that gray space. But if he wants to stay on the field and actually have a chance to play triple digit games at his favorite position, he will have to make smart choices.

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It’s hoped that returning to center field will revive the old Buxton, but once again, the crucial factor is maintaining his health. It’s reassuring to see that he has finally realized this.

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