When the Minnesota Twins left Akil Baddoo unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft this winter, surely they knew he could be snapped up by another team. They likely didn’t expect that the move would come back around and bite them as quickly as it has.
Baddoo was taken by the Tigers early in the draft and forced his way onto their roster with a stellar spring. All he’s done since then is homer on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues on Sunday, hit a grand slam against the Twins on Monday and then cap off a walk-off win against his former team on Tuesday, April 6. Baddoo’s single to right off Hansel Robles sent the Twins to a 4-3 loss in 10 innings on Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Baddoo’s rise and hot start is both impressive and improbable after the 22-year-old outfielder missed most of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was away from competitive action last year as the minor league season was wiped out due to the pandemic. The Tigers (3-2) outfielder was the Twins’ second-round pick in 2016.
“He’s been fun to watch — more fun if we weren’t playing him,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
But before Baddoo’s late-inning heroics, the Twins (3-2) had their chances, a prime one coming in their half of the 10th inning when Nelson Cruz singled to right and Jorge Polanco, who began the inning on second, was held up at third with no outs. After a Max Kepler strikeout, Polanco was off on contact when Byron Buxton chopped the ball to third. Polanco was thrown out at the plate for the second time in the game and the Twins would wind up stranding two.
“It was a game that didn’t come very easily to us,” Baldelli said. “Not a lot happened, I would say, according to plan.”
At least one thing actually went better than planned, though. Buxton, who left Sunday’s game early with a non-COVID illness, returned in dramatic fashion. The Twins plugged him in on defense in the fifth inning and by the eighth inning, he had made his imprint on the game.
Buxton took a 96-mile per hour fastball out to left field, tying the game at three at the time. It was his third home run of the season and another reminder of how locked in the center fielder is.
“Watching him just completely change ballgames singlehandedly is just something that never gets old,” his manager said.
Buxton’s home run came an inning after Nelson Cruz had hit his own home run — also his third of the season. Buxton and Cruz have combined for six of the team’s eight longballs this season.
The Twins got enough on the mound starter J.A. Happ, who at times had issues with hitting his spots, to keep them in the game. Happ threw four innings of one-run ball. He walked three, and dealt with traffic each of his four innings, but was able to get himself out of his jams for the most part, stranding runners on the corners to end his outing. Through the Twins’ first turn through the rotation, the club’s five starters have given up just three earned runs in their 25 1/3 innings pitched.
“We’re giving ourselves a chance to stay in these ballgames or win these ballgames and that’s what they’re asking, especially with what we’re capable of doing on the offensive end,” Happ said. “We’re going to continue to try and do that and try to feed off each other as best we can.”
But on Tuesday, they couldn’t the Twins couldn’t convert on enough chances offensively, sending them to their second loss of the season. Both losses have come in the 10th inning when a runner starting the frame on second base.
“Just about everything that we were hoping would happen and put ourselves in position to happen broke the other way so we’ll regroup,” Baldelli said. “We’ll get ready for tomorrow and be ready to go.”