FORT MYERS, FLA. – The fastest man in baseball just might want to slow down a little.

Determined to put a lost 2018 season behind him, Byron Buxton has launched himself into 2019 with full force. In five spring training at-bats, Buxton has gone home run, single, double, single and home run.

That includes Monday’s 3-for-3 performance in the Twins’ 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, in which the center fielder hit a two-run double, RBI single and two-run homer.

That five-RBI game for Buxton matches the five runs he drove in Saturday against Tampa Bay. That’s 10 RBI in five Grapefruit League at-bats for Buxton, who had no home runs and four RBI in 28 regular-season games with the Twins last season.

It’s a pace that can’t be maintained. And the Twins likely are hoping he saves some stick for the regular season. Buxton has had a few hot streaks during his young career but, as his .230 career batting average reveals, sustaining them has been problematic. The challenge for him is to find an approach for him that works and figure out how to adjust quickly when teams pitch him differently.

Only then will Buxton prove he belongs. But the first two games of the exhibition season offer encouragement.

“That’s what we want,” Twins righthander Jose Berrios said. “We want him in that situation, in that position. When he’s back to the Byron Buxton that we know, he played from 2012 to being in the majors, so I feel so happy and proud for him to watch so far what he’s doing this spring training.”

Jorge Polanco delivered an RBI single, then smartly tagged up from third and scored when Jason Castro popped out in foul category for the other Twins runs. In two innings of work, Berrios gave up one run on a second-inning solo shot from Eric Young Jr.

La VELLE E. NEAL III

 

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