In just over two weeks – March 28 – the Twins are scheduled to open the regular season at home against the Cleveland Indians, and every day that passes brings renewed hope that 2019 will finally be Byron Buxton's breakthrough season.
Buxton has been thrilling this spring, but two other names generating optimism are left-handed pitcher Martin Perez – the man who killed and ate a bull that charged him – and Eddie Rosario.
Tim Kurkjian raves about Byron Buxton
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian saw Buxton last week and was impressed with the 25-year-old's physical and mental growth from a year ago.
"He took off his shirt, which he was in the process of doing anyway," Kurkjian siad on Buster Olney's podcast. "He is ripped. He is jacked. He weighs 203 pounds. He told me he weighed 172 at most points last year. It is clear at how much bigger and stronger he is. I could see it before he took his shirt off. Then he took his shirt off and he looked like a bodybuilder."
A beefed up Buxton is hitting .350/.409/.850 through eight games this spring, and in his 22 plate appearances he's homered three times, walked once and struck out just four times.
"I really think we're going to see a different guy this spring. Not just in production, but the way he presents everything," Kurkjian said. "He's gotta hit, but with the body that I saw today, he's going to hit – and he has already – this spring."
Martin Perez throwing gas
The veteran left-handed pitcher is working with former Twins two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, and the results have been impressive.
In three appearances (nine innings,) Perez has struck out seven and walked just one while saying Santana is helping him pitch with his entire body rather than being all arm like he was in the past.
"Before, I just used my arms," Pérez said, via the Twins. "Now, I'm using all my body, and you guys can see the results. I don't miss inside anymore. One or two, but before, I missed – like I was trying to use all of my upper body. Now, I just stay on the line and just throw the ball in front of my eyes."
Perez went 2-7 with a 6.22 ERA while averaging 92.8 mph on his fastball in 2018. Incorporating his entire body into his delivery has resulted in, so far, back-to-back starts with a fastball clocked around 95 mph – and as high as 97.
"I’ll tell you this, it doesn’t appear a fun at-bat the way he’s going about his business right now," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
It's too early to get overly excited about Perez's potential, but he's looking more and more likely to lock down a spot in the starting rotation, possibly as a hard-throwing lefty, which is very rare in Twins history.
Eddie Rosario crushing the ball
Rosario just missed out on becoming an All-Star in 2018, but the way he's clubbing the ball this spring, he might be primed for an even bigger 2019.
The 27-year-old has 10 hits in 23 at-bats and is slashing a robust .435/.417/.826 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBI.
"What we saw last year was some exceptional months from Eddie Rosario," Twins GM Thad Levine told KSTP on Mar. 6. "If he puts together a full season at that level, he'll go down as one of the elite players of this generation."
Rosario hit .241 in April 2018 and then went bonkers in May and June, hitting a combined .350 with 15 homers, 19 doubles and 40 RBI.