Buxton gets taste of game speed in first spring start

Top prospect goes 0-for-5, admits that adjustment to big league play continues

Buxton gets taste of game speed in first spring start

JUPITER, Fla. -- Byron Buxton already had come off the bench to play in four Grapefruit League games, but on Tuesday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire put his name atop the lineup to start against the Marlins.

The 20-year-old center fielder, ranked the No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, might not have much time left in big league Spring Training, with the first round of roster cuts likely coming next Monday. So Gardenhire wanted to get a good look before Buxton likely heads off to Minor League camp.

"I've been playing him in the last parts of games, and today I just started him, because I do want to look at him, and I know there's a clock ticking here, so I want to see him swing," Gardenhire said before his club's 3-1 loss to Miami. "I want to see him get multiple at-bats like a lot of these other kids, so we're going to start doing that before that roster game comes into play."

Buxton is coming off a season in which he hit .344/.424/.520 with 12 home runs, 77 RBIs and 55 stolen bases between two Class A affiliates. He was 2-for-7 with a double this spring before going 0-for-5 on Tuesday, with two flyouts, two groundouts and a foul popup.

Buxton did get to show off his blazing speed by very nearly beating out both grounders, including a routine hopper to second base.

"He just missed some balls today," Gardenhire said. "He's getting the bat head in the right spot, and today they went up. He hits a ground ball, and you're thinking it's gonna be routine, and there it is, bam-bam at first base. So that's what he does. He plays and he plays hard."

Buxton hasn't spent much time sitting on the bench throughout his baseball life, so the second overall pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft admitted that this spring has been an adjustment. So has the speed of the game at the top level.

"I'm still trying to slow it down a little bit," he said. "Still feel kind of rushed sometimes, so I'm just trying to adjust to how this game is played."

Regardless of Buxton's performance this spring, he is not competing for a roster spot to begin the season, according to assistant general manager Rob Antony.

"For a player of his ability who hasn't played above high [Class] A ball, I think it'd be a stretch to throw him in there, and I don't see a reason why we'd want to do that right now," Antony said. "So the primary objective of this Spring Training for him is to get his feet wet, to be around it all and get acclimated, so when he is up here for real or he's ready to compete for a job and he's in the mix, he'll be a little more comfortable."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.