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Byron Buxton healthy, shows off speed

Byron Buxton healthy, shows off speed

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Manager Rocco Baldelli’s early-spring appraisal of Byron Buxton was that the Twins’ center fielder “seems very free to just go out there and play.”

“Knowing him and watching him, the fact he can just show up to the ballfield and play now, it means everything,” Baldelli added Wednesday.

Taking the field on Thursday afternoon for the first time since he signed a contract extension worth seven years and $100 million on Dec. 1, the Twins’ star center fielder certainly had a little fun early on during a 14-1 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Buxton led off the game by swatting a liner into the left-field corner, then stole second two pitches later.

He’s hit leadoff just 36 times and stolen 71 bases in seven seasons in his career, so it begs the question: Could Thursday’s approach be written off as a Spring Training quirk, or is it a sign the Twins are shifting from their recent brand of bomba baseball to a more small-ball approach?

Hitting leadoff means next to…

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