MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton isn’t the type to sit around. Even when he’s not playing, the Twins center fielder is up and stretching and staying ready.
So being eased back into action might not be the easiest thing for him. But even though Buxton and third baseman Josh Donaldson would rather be playing, the Twins are committed to being patient and doing what’s best for the health of the two players. Both were out of the lineup Sunday after playing Saturday.
Buxton (shoulder) and Donaldson (calf) both came off the injured list last week, and the Twins have been incorporating rest days for them as they build them back to full strength.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said that for roughly the first week the pair was back, the team would stick to a general plan and continue to check on them continuously before, during and after games. That plan will likely get less rigid as time goes on. On their days off, Baldelli said they might be available in potential situations.
“With everything we’ve experienced with those guys, after building them back up, after getting them healthy, after being able to watch them play the last couple days, seeing what they can do, you tend to want to get them out there more often than not,” Baldelli said. “You’re looking for ways to get them in games.”
Donaldson did make a pinch-hit appearance Sunday. He struck out in the seventh inning of the Twins’ 10-8 loss to Detroit.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz also was on the bench Sunday, scratched with mild hip soreness that Baldelli did not believe to be a major issue.
“I think he just woke up a little bit stiff, and there’s no reason for us to not give him the time,” Baldelli said. “We have another doubleheader coming up, we have another day game tomorrow. I think we can give him the day, get ahead of a little bit of this and make sure he’s OK going forward. I am not concerned about him going forward.
Jorge Alcala’s contributions were somewhat overshadowed in the excitement of the Twins’ 4-3 win over the Tigers on Saturday.
But the rookie pitcher’s two scoreless innings in the eighth and the ninth innings to help keep the Twins within 3-2 were crucial. And his usage in a high-leverage situation is a sign of the team’s confidence in the 25-year-old.
“He’s earned all of these opportunities by going out there and improving and continuing to pitch and get better as the season has gone on. In a lot of ways, we knew he had great stuff,” Baldelli said. “Last year we knew he had great stuff. But just to watch his comfort level, his understanding of what he has to do out there, and really, he’s taking all of the tools and the ability that he has and he’s putting it to use right now at the major-league level.”
Pitching coach Wes Johnson said they had been working with Alcala on his breathing and staying under control, crediting both bullpen coach Pete Maki and special assistant LaTroy Hawkins for the work they’ve done with him.
Alcala, who has a 2.45 earned-run average in 18 1/3 innings over 10 games this season, hit 100.7 mph on the radar gun last week against the White Sox.
“We’re doing a lot of things with Jorge right now, and our main focus has been pitch execution and keeping yourself under control,” Johnson said. “It’s always funny, and I’ve said for a long time, guys get comfortable in a situation and they have confidence, all the sudden you’ll see velocity, or stuff change, and I think that’s what you’re seeing with Jorge right now. We’re putting zero emphasis on velocity with him right now.”
The Twins reinstated relief pitcher Zack Littell (elbow) from the injured list Sunday and optioned him to the alternate site in St. Paul. Littell hasn’t pitched since Aug. 21 when he left that game with the elbow issue. Littell has a 9.95 ERA in six games this season. … Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire did not manage on Sunday, sidelined with a stomach bug.