MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins say that third baseman Josh Donaldson is just about ready to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup. The only thing that might get in his way is… the weather.
Such is life in April in Minnesota, where temperatures have hovered in the 40s during this homestand and snow is expected to fall on Tuesday. Rain was also forecasted for Monday’s game, which was ultimately postponed “out of respect for the tragic events that occurred Sunday in Brooklyn Center,” the Twins said in a press release.
Considering Donaldson’s history of muscle issues, manager Rocco Baldelli said that the Twins could wait for more favorable conditions before activating Donaldson, who was eligible to come off the 10-day IL on Monday.
“He had a very good day yesterday,” Baldelli said. “I think he’s ready to play. He’s mentally prepared, ready to play.”
Donaldson played five half-innings of defense at the alternate training site in St. Paul on Sunday and hit a homer as part of six at-bats during an intrasquad scrimmage. He came out of that without issue, and his right hamstring appears to be in a good place following a strain he suffered while running the bases after doubling on Opening Day.
Still, the Twins don’t want to push it by putting Donaldson on slick infields for his return to play, especially considering the possibility of rain and snow delays.
Those are particularly significant considerations for Donaldson. He said last year that his recurring calf injuries might have started because of an irregular buildup to a game that the Twins were initially uncertain if they would play, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Cardinals’ clubhouse immediately after their club left Target Field.
Considering the proximity of the alternate training site in St. Paul (which will likely experience similar weather conditions), Donaldson will remain with the Twins at Target Field and do his own workouts.
“Could JD go out there today and probably be just fine to play through a challenging set of conditions? Yes,” Baldelli said. “I want to have JD out there and worry about just getting ready for the game and not have to worry about these kinds of extraordinary weather conditions that you think you shouldn’t have to worry about in the game of baseball, but we do have to worry about in April.”
Power? Speed? Buxton’s got it all
As MLB.com researcher Sarah Langs pointed out, here’s a full list of the players who are currently in the 95th percentile or higher in both sprint speed and hard-hit rate this season: Byron Buxton, Mike Trout and Ronald Acuña Jr.
Among those three, Buxton shines brightest with his sprint speed (29.8 ft/sec) and hard-hit rate (72.7%) both in the 99th percentile of the league.
It’s easy to see that Buxton has been really good this season, but his underlying performance has been truly elite.
“I don’t think it’s any secret to say that if Buck stays out there, he’s arguably one of the best players in the league,” Twins outfielder Jake Cave said. “There’s nobody faster, and he’s showing that there’s not many people with much more power. So he’s special. I hope he keeps it rolling. I’m loving to see it.”
On Sunday, Buxton became the second player in Twins/Senators franchise history with nine extra-base hits (five homers and four doubles) in his team’s first nine games of a season, joining Cristian Guzmán (2001). He has already hit the longest homer of his career (456 feet) and hardest-hit batted ball of his career (114.1 mph) this season.