A sign he’s feeling good: Twins’ Byron Buxton steals two bases

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CHICAGO — How’s this for a sign that designated hitter Byron Buxton has been feeling pretty good lately? The speedy-but-injured center fielder forced to DH to open the season is once again stealing bases.

After not attempting a steal in all of April, Buxton did so twice in as many days against the White Sox during the first two games of the series, and was safe on both attempts.

“Feel good, take your chances. Some days you feel better than others,” Buxton said. “So you do what you can to help the team on the days you feel good, and the days you don’t, back up a little bit.”

For Buxton, the decision to run appears to rest heavily on how he’s feeling on any given day. He had season-ending knee surgery last season and the Twins have kept him in a strictly designated hitter role this year, out of center field, as they manage his workload.

“Some days he’s running well, very well, and other days he’s not,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “On the days he’s not, he’s not going to be stealing bases because we don’t want to set him back where he’s out of the lineup for a day or two because of that. Those decisions are not easy because he’s going to want to run every day, whether or not it’s going to set him back or not.”

Someone has to make those decisions, and it ends up being him, Baldelli said, noting that those calls are often difficult decisions that the medical department will weigh in on.

Buxton has swiped 79 bags in his career, with the most in any season coming in 2017 when he had 29. He has an 89 percent success rate for his career, which is well above league average.

While Buxton’s low stolen base total centers around his health, it’s not just him who hasn’t been running. It’s his teammates, as well, despite an increase in base sizes, which has led to an increase in stolen bases and attempts around the league.

But not for the Twins.

The Twins entered Thursday’s play with just six stolen bases this season — 16 individual players around the league entered the day with more — which was tied with the Colorado Rockies for last in the majors. They’ve been caught five times, successful in just 54.5 percent of their attempts, which is well below league average.

Michael A. Taylor leads the team with three, Buxton now has a pair, and Willi Castro, who appeared to have a base stolen on Wednesday but the Twins were unable to challenge an out call that likely would have been reversed, has one.

López bounces back

After a pair of starts in which he gave up a combined 11 runs, Twins pitcher Pablo López bounced back nicely on Thursday, throwing seven strong innings of two-run ball against the White Sox.

Both runs came on an Eloy Jiménez home run, though López lamented the leadoff walk that inning to Seby Zavala more than the home run postgame. López got more swings and misses as the start went on, finishing with eight strikeouts. That, he credited in large part to catcher Christian Vázquez for helping him make in-game adjustments.

“I think he’s probably back to enjoying a little bit of a nicer day outside, and it kind of all worked together for him,” Baldelli said. “He settled in well. … That’s the kind of outing that we absolutely needed.”

Briefly

The Twins will pitch Bailey Ober, Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan this weekend against Cleveland. … Friday night’s game will be broadcast exclusively on Apple TV+. It will not be shown on Bally Sports North.

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