|How fast is Bryon Buxton? He was out of the camera|
frame before the bat landed in his first at-bat Monday.
(Photos by Linda Vanderwerf)
And so it was that I essentially burned two days off — Sunday and Monday — to see one minor league game. Monday afternoon, the Kane County Cougars (Cubs affiliate) at Cedar Rapids.
I have plenty of observations to make from that game, and I'll dole them out over the next few days, but today's post will be about Buxton, because he was the big reason for the trip.
Buxton homered in his second at-bat, a majestic fly ball that flew over everything in left field. That was his only hit in five trips to the plate. He struck out twice, reached on an error and was retired on a grounder to third.
|Byron Buxton awaits a pitch.|
And he made two magnificent catches in center field. In the first inning, Kane County's Gioskar Amaya drove a ball to deep center. Buxton made the catch with his back to the infield and hit the fence on his next step. The impact knocked him down, but he got up quickly.
In the ninth, Pin-Chieh Chen drove a liner to left-center. Buxton made a diving catch just before the ball found the grass.
(I was sitting right behind the Kernels dugout. Kernels coach Tommy Watkins had been moving left fielder J.D. Williams toward center on Chen, then had him move two steps back toward the foul line. After Buxton's catch, Watkins,who spent the game on the top step of the dugout, turned around and said with a grin to somebody inside the dugout: I moved him back because he was crowding Buck.)
Tom Kelly has said that Buxton is the fastest player he's ever seen, and I saw some of that in play Monday. He hit a one-hopper in the first inning right at the third baseman, and the throw only got him by a step at first base.
Buxton led off the fifth. He tried a bunt and fouled it off but ran it out as if to show us all how fast he is and how easily that speed comes. He followed with a soft grounder to short; the shortstop charged the ball and juggled it trying to make a rapid exchange from glove to throwing hand, and Buxton was safe. It was ruled an error, and I suppose that, had the shortstop made the play perfectly, he would have been out. I suppose. It certainly would have been a close play. I'm convinced: There is no such thing as a routine groundball out to the left side with Buxton.
Having reached first, he stole second base easily. He then came around on a pair of ground outs.