Twins prospects return to field in 3-1 win over Minnesota
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor could have made it easier on his former college team if his B squad wasn't so talented.
Molitor, in uniform for his first game in charge of the Twins, rested his regulars and went with a lineup full of heralded prospects who helped the Twins defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-1 Wednesday night in an exhibition game on the eve of the Grapefruit League opener.
Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, who missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, had a single, a walk and a stolen base.
Center fielder Byron Buxton went 2 for 3 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. Buxton was considered baseball's top prospect in 2014 but missed all but 31 games in the minors because of various injuries.
''Obviously, a lot of people are well aware of those two kids, even though they've never played a big league game,'' Molitor said. ''It's been a plus for them to get a chance to go out there. They need to play. Hopefully they can keep themselves on the field. With Buxton, it was fun to see him run around like that.''
Buxton, the second pick in the 2012 amateur draft, hit .334 with 55 stolen bases in 2013 in the lower minor leagues. But he batted just .234 with 16 steals in 31 games last season, when he was slowed by wrist and leg injuries along with a concussion following a frightening outfield collision.
''I've been wanting to get back out there and play,'' Buxton said. ''I worked hard in the offseason to accomplish that goal. I missed a lot of time last year.''
Sano hit .280 with 35 home runs and 103 RBIs in 123 minor league games in 2013 but injured his right elbow just before spring training games began last year.
''Little Miguel Sano is back!'' he said in English.
Sano said he worked hard over the last six months not just on coming back from the surgery but with learning a second language.
''This is the team for the future in Minnesota,'' he said.
Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco hit a solo home run. Polanco advanced from the Class A Fort Myers Miracle to the big leagues last season but is expected to start this year in the minors.
Twins closer Glen Perkins, who like Molitor played for the Golden Gophers, pitched a scoreless third inning and struck out one.
''That was an opportunity that I wasn't going to pass up,'' Perkins said. ''It was fun to see the coaches and to see the guys I've known. It was a lot of fun. I wanted to make sure I did well, and it worked out.''
Jose Berrios, one of the Twins' top pitching prospects, struck out four and gave up one run on an error. He earned the win. The 20-year-old advanced from Class A to Triple-A last season, finishing 12-8 with 140 strikeouts in 139 2-3 innings. He is expected to start this season in the minors.
Buxton was among several players who missed practices with flu-like symptoms last week, but all of them have since returned to health.
The Twins host the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night at Hammond Stadium, which is reopening after $48.5 million in renovations. Minnesota RHP Kyle Gibson is slated to face RHP Joe Kelly.