Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The center field competition

Byron Buxton chases down a ball
in an early spring training drill.
Aaron Hicks has legitimately been the best outfielder in the Twins spring training the past two years. Not just the best centerfielder, the best outfielder, period.

And once the season began, it meant nothing.

So I'm not sure what the Twins are looking for from Hicks this spring to convince them he's the man for the center field job. I'm quite sure that it isn't the vapor lock he's exhibited the past couple of games.

The other day Hicks was picked off first and saved by a balk call, which moved him to second -- where he promptly got picked off again.

On Tuesday Hicks lost track of the outs, and Paul Molitor pulled him from the game and inserted Byron Buxton.

Buxton drew a pair of walks and pulled off a Buxton baserunning move, going first-to-third on a single to left that the Toronto broadcasters described as a "looping liner." Baserunners generally don't make that play work -- the throw to third is a short one -- but Buxton motors. I don't know that he's the fastest guy in baseball, as Tom Kelly suggested in the summer of 2013, but he's close. Hicks is fast. Buxton is faster.

Meanwhile, Shane Robinson, the former St. Louis Cardinal reserve, committed an error in right field.

I know full well this isn't going to happen, but I will again say: Buxton is probably the best bet, right now, for center field in the Twins camp. I know he barely played more than two weeks at a time last summer, and I know he has one game above A ball on his resume. Put him in the lineup, and he'll provide Gold Glove defense, steal some bases and outhit Hicks, not that that last is all that impressive.

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