The Minnesota Twins Get a Sudden Boost with Byron Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez Back

Photo credit: David Berding (USA Today Sports)

Marwin Gonzalez said he was pretty bored waiting to recover from his hamstring injury. As a player with speed, a capable bat and the ability to play all over, he’s used to being on the move. One day he’s in right field as the team’s fourth outfielder, the next day he’s backing up Miguel Sano at third base.

This is a man who needs to stay active.

“I don’t have patience. That’s something I don’t have for anything in my life,” he said. “That’s why I was super bored and I was bothering my teammates way too much. They’re probably happy that I’m back in the lineup today.”

Gonzalez was removed from the Twins’ 17-inning win over the Boston Red Sox in the sixth inning. Max Kepler, his replacement, homered in the 13th inning to tie the game, and won it with a walk-off single. But Sano has hit .156/.229/.531 with 16 strikeouts and four home runs in his absence, outfielder Jake Cave struggled at the plate and Eddie Rosario got hurt.

His presence has been missed.

Not only are he and Byron Buxton, who was hitting .266/.324/.527 while remaining one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, back, but they have filled out a team depleted from injuries, fatigue and the ill effects of playing an 18-inning game eight days after the 17-inning game against Boston.

“It’s very nice to be able to write those guys in the lineup,” said Rocco Baldelli. “We haven’t had our full group out there in a while.”

A glance at the Twins 52-29 record halfway through the season would indicate that they’ve had it easy all year long. They’ve made mincemeat of the bottom half of the American League, taken series from the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays and won games against the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

But lurking beneath the surface are the Cleveland Indians, eight games back and (kinda) surging while the Twins have dealt with injuries and fatigue. Minnesota is being tested by circumstances beyond their control, a reminder that baseball is a long season and that young, upstart teams are often doubted until they prove they can play well for 162 games.

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA Today Sports)

They have not lost three straight yet, but they did drop two games before the 17-inning game, and the two games following it.

“I feel strongly that our guys have handled everything that’s come our way very well,” says Baldelli. “For a period of time, everything was going great, you’re winning games, everyone is healthy and things like that.

“It’s a long year and there are some big swings up and down emotionally,” he added, “but our guys have leveled those off really, really well and pretty much have dealt with everything that’s gone their way and come their way.”

After playing with a makeshift group on Friday, on Saturday the team looked back to normal again. Aside from Rosario — who was placed on the 10-day injured list prematurely in order to get enough players up to fill out the roster on Friday — missing in the outfield, this looked like the same old Twins team that had dominated the first half of the season.

Even the bullpen was fresh, outside of Mike Morin, who pitched in relief of Jose Berrios on Friday.

That’s what’s been the difference-maker for the Twins this year. Every time they look like they’re about to be mowed over, they sprout back up again. Friday they looked dreary from the 18-inning game; Saturday they perked right back up. Resilience is one way to put it, but indefatigable is probably a better fit.

This is a tough group to keep down. One insistent on making sure that the speedy Gonzalez is never bored again.

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Photo credit: David Berding (USA Today Sports)

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