It wasn't the way Byron Buxton wanted to reach base for the first time in his Major League career, but it ended with him scoring the winning run in the ninth inning to help the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Rangers in his big league debut on Sunday.
Eduardo Escobar hit a leadoff double in the ninth, and Buxton reached on a fielder's choice with a sacrifice bunt attempt, as the Rangers threw out Escobar at third base on the play. After Brian Dozier made the frame's second out, Eddie Rosario scored Buxton, who went 0-for-4 at the plate, from first with a double to center field.
"It was amazing, especially making your debut and scoring the winning run," Buxton said. "It's an amazing feeling. It's a day I'll cherish forever."
Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, arrived at Globe Life Park roughly two and a half hours before the game. He woke up at 5:30 a.m. to catch a 9:13 a.m. flight from Birmingham to Dallas that landed shortly after 11 a.m.
Buxton, 21, worked with first-base coach Butch Davis to get a feel for the ballpark, but only recorded one putout on a fly ball to center field in the sixth. He went 0-for-4 at the plate, striking out in his first at-bat, grounding to third in his second at-bat and striking out again in his third at-bat to end the sixth with a runner at third.
"I'm just glad we got the win," Buxton said. "I don't really care how much I did out there. I got my feet wet and got all the jitters out. So I'm just ready to get back out there and play another game."
Buxton, wearing No. 25 after wearing No. 7 in the Minors, said before the game he felt surprisingly at ease despite the fact it was his highly anticipated debut. He said the nerves got to him a bit as the game went along, but Twins manager Paul Molitor still liked what he saw.
"He was excited," Molitor said. "He doesn't show it a lot externally. He's a pretty self-controlled kid, which is good to have. But he was a little anxious. Tried to see the ball early and they got him to chase a couple times. But we saw a glimpse of his speed on the ball to third when he made it close. But he looked comfortable in the outfield. Hopefully his at-bats will get better the more experience he gets."
he five-tool phenom hit .283/.351/.489 with six homers, seven doubles, 12 triples and 37 RBIs in 59 games at Double-A. He also stole 20 bases in 22 attempts.
He served as leadoff hitter for the Lookouts, but Molitor said he plans to keep Brian Dozier as his leadoff hitter in the short-term to keep the pressure off Buxton. But Twins players still came away amazed by his speed and a move to the leadoff spot seems inevitable.
"We were joking how close he made that play in his second at-bat and how he'd probably lap me in a home-to-home race," Twins right-hander Phil Hughes said. "You can see the talent is there for everything you need to be successful."