Notebook: Buxton hits with Mauer, should sign Wednesday; Thome returns
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MINNEAPOLIS -- No. 2 overall pick Byron Buxton will be a multi-millionaire as soon as he officially puts pen to paper on his contract -- a deal that is expected to be completed on Wednesday after he passes his physical.
But on Tuesday Buxton was just a wide-eyed, 18-year-old kid soaking in -- and participating in -- the Minnesota Twins pre-game atmosphere with his family.
Buxton had a Twins jersey with the No. 1 on the back waiting for him on Tuesday in the Target Field clubhouse, where he shook hands and chatted with several players.
"It took my breath away," Buxton said of the jersey. "I wasn't expecting to see that."
"It was great. I wasn't nervous. I was just being myself and relaxed and stayed calm," Buxton said.
As for using the bat of a three-time batting champ, Buxton said, "It was the best feeling I've had so far."
Buxton already has a relationship with Ben Revere, who was born in Georgia, and he says that friendship might be an advantage "because he can show me what I'm doing wrong and stuff like that."
Buxton is expected to begin his minor league career with the Twins' rookie ball team in Elizabethton.
Almost a year after his two-season stint with the Twins, being in the opposite dugout at Target Field is still strange for Phillies slugger Jim Thome.
"It feels different, but great to be here," Thome said with a large smile before the Phillies began a three-game series with the Twins on Tuesday. "Obviously the two years I was here, myself and my family really enjoyed our time here. Seeing all the guys out here early was a lot of fun."
Thome has a reason to be nostalgic about his brief stay in Minnesota. In the winter prior to the 2010 season, the Twins chose to take a gamble on the aging 39-year-old free agent. The result was more than the Twins expected.
"My two years here were very, very special," Thome, now 41, said. "They gave me an opportunity, to be honest, when not many teams were calling at that time and I thank them for that. I appreciate them for that."
The accommodating and joyful slugger quickly became a fan favorite, as he has at all five of his stops in the Majors. Thome was a crucial cog during the Twins's memorable 2010 campaign and continued to make headlines as he marched towards his 600th home run on August 16, 2011, surpassing former Twins great Harmon Killebrew in the process.
Images from those two seasons were fresh in Thome's mind while he sat in the Phillies dugout, gazing out towards right field where he has landed numerous home run balls.
"It brings back great memories," Thome said. "So many great memories -- the Thorton home run that won it that night (against the White Sox in 2010), the home run over the backdrop, tying Harmon, which for me is really as big as it gets because of the man Harmon was."
After he was traded to spend the twilight of the 2011 season with the Cleveland Indians, Thome chose forgo retirement for at least another year and sign with Philadelphia, where he spent three seasons between 2003 and 2005. Though stuck on the disabled list throughout May, he returned to the lineup on June 6 and has belted eight hits in a five-game span.
Thome, in Tuesday's lineup as the Phillies' designated hitter, isn't looking to hold back against his former team.
"Those guys are my buddies, but I want to beat them," Thome said
Well aware of the power and danger Thome presents, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't have much advice for his pitching staff other than to keep the ball down.
"I'm going to sit there and be nervous, because I've seen what he can do," Gardenhire said. "If you make a mistake on him he's going to be ready to hit it. You've got to try to keep the ball down and stay out of his whopping zone. There's about 600 and some that haven't done that. Just don't get on that list and you'll be fine."
Twins won't announce fifth starter yet
Due to having multiple off-days over the past week the Twins don't need a fifth starter until Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Do they know who that fifth starter will be?
"Yes I do," said Gardenhire. "I do have a plan. And you'll probably get that on about Thursday."
The fifth starter is likely to be Liam Hendriks, who lowered his Triple-A ERA to 1.94 by throwing 8 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday. Hendriks struck out 10, walked two and didn't allow a fly ball out of the infield. He hasn't allowed a run since May 30.
Because Hendriks threw 124 pitches in his last outing it could benefit him to have a couple extra days off this week.
• Jim Thome, visiting this week with the Phillies, has hit the three longest home runs in Target Field history -- the longest being a 490-foot moon shot on July 17 last season.
• The Twins entered Tuesday with a 14-9 record in their last 23 games, which is the fourth-best record in the American League in that span.
• The Twins surpassed the 1 million mark in attendance on Sunday, putting them on pace to draw approximately 2.7 million this season.