Twins gearing up for 2020 with ‘electrifying players’

Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (Photo by twinkietown.com)

By Ray Richardson

If Major League Baseball is able to stick to its plan of opening the 2020 season on July 23 or July 24, the Twins will be showcasing two of the game’s “Most Electrifying Players.”

MLB.com produced the list of marquee players and named Byron Buxton for center field and Nelson Cruz for designated hitters. Buxton and Cruz are coming off highlight seasons in 2019 and are expected to be key performers this year for the Twins, already tabbed as a team to watch in the projected 60-game season.

The defending American League Central Division champions won 101 games last season, set a major-league record with 307 homers and added another home run threat with the signing of free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, who had 37 homers and 94 RBIs last year with Atlanta.

Though the Twins appear to be a legitimate playoff contender, Twins fans will be limited to watching the talented team on TV. COVID-19 concerns forced Major League Baseball to prohibit fans from attending games in the first few weeks of the schedule. The number of coronavirus cases, or a downward trend, will determine whether MLB and government officials will permit fans to attend games.

In the meantime, the Twins are certain to be must-see viewing on TV, particularly to watch Buxton and Cruz, who led the Twins last season with 41 homers and was second in RBIs with 108. Left fielder Eddie Rosario led the club with 109. Buxton, entering his sixth season, had career-highs last season with a .262 batting average and a .513 slugging percentage. 

It’s Buxton’s defense, however, that has placed him among the game’s most electrifying players. As one of the fastest players in the majors, if not the fastest, Buxton has made numerous sparkling plays in center field, including memorable catches at the wall to rob opponents of extra-base hits. 

The downside of Buxton’s “electricity” is his inability to stay healthy. He has yet to play a full major league season. Buxton was limited to 87 games last year. He had surgery on his left shoulder in the offseason, but the layoff from COVID-19 figures to have him at full strength when the season starts in about three weeks.

Summer Camp begins: The Twins conducted their first day of “summer camp” Friday in preparation for the delayed start. The team worked out for seven hours beginning at 2 p.m. 

To maintain social distancing guidelines, half of the team worked out at Target Field; the other half at CHS Field in St. Paul, home of the St. Paul Saints, a member of the independent American Association. The Twins are planning to use both fields during the first few days of summer camp.

Health watch: Many Twins players wore masks while going through drills on the field. Media members were required to wear masks before entering Target Field and had to sign a waiver. Media members also underwent temperature checks.

There was no locker room access or interview access to players and coaches. All interviews Friday were conducted via Zoom.

Ray Richardson, an on-air personality at KMOJ, can be reached at rayrich@kmojfm.com or rayrich55@gmail.com.