ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Carlos Correa's sister has a favorite MLB player that she traveled to the South Bay especially to see for her birthday Saturday.
And no, it's not her brother. It's Angels pitching-hitting phenom Shohei Ohtani.
"I'm like, 'When I face Ohtani, what do you want me to do?' And she's like, 'No, you can try to get a hit, but make sure he wins,'" Correa said. "And I was like, 'No, it should be the other way I around! I don't get a hit, and we win!'"
Luckily, Ohtani will spare the Correas some family drama, as he isn't coming up in the rotation for the Twins' weekend series at Angel Stadium. But he will still be the designated hitter, as he was Friday. And that at least will offer the Twins the chance to observe a rare and unmatched talent.
The 28-year-old from Japan has a strong chance to become the American League MVP for the second-consecutive year this season. He has a 2.68 ERA in 19 starts, collecting a 10-7 record and 157 strikeouts. At the plate, he sports a .256 batting average with 66 RBI, 25 home runs, 17 doubles and three triples.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli put his support behind Ohtani for the back-to-back MVP bid.
"In my eyes, he's the most valuable player for any particular team in baseball. He helps his team win probably more games than anyone," Baldelli said. "I feel pretty comfortable saying that."
Baldelli added he tried to not single out just Ohtani to his team as the threat to contain in this series. But he also couldn't really avoid it.
"There are times where you're going to have to attack him and go after him and get him out, which we're going to do. But he's also really good," Baldelli said. "I think he's one of the few guys that even when you're on the other side of the field, your eyes are drawn to him on the field. And he's just incredibly impressive, really in everything he does. My eyes will be on him.
"And hopefully it's not him moving around the bases in any way. But I'll be watching."
Buxton back in center
Byron Buxton returned to center field for Friday's game, his first extended appearance there since tweaking his knee in the Padres series two weeks ago.
Buxton has battled patellar tendinitis in his right knee all season and has used rest, rehab and a platelet-rich plasma injection as ways to try to play through the injury. He's avoided the Injured List but has spent much time as the designated hitter.
Baldelli gave Buxton the game off Tuesday against the Dodgers so he would have that and the Thursday off day to rest up.
"It's a unique series facing three lefties in a row, and obviously he's an excellent guy when it comes to producing and winning ballgames when it comes to facing lefthanded pitching," Baldelli said. "So our best lineup is with him out there."
Baldelli said ideally, Buxton would have more than just a couple days, which would make him "a different player and probably capable of a lot more." But the Twins don't have that time in season.
"Buck's handled it all really well. These are the things most players really struggle with emotionally and mentally when they have to do it for a week," Baldelli said. "… He's dealt with it literally every single day for the entire season. I think it has been pretty impressive what he's been able to do on the field production-wise and where he's been able to stay mentally to pull this off."
- Twins outfielder Trevor Larnach, rehabbing from surgery for a core muscle injury, is hitting, throwing, running straight and striding in Fort Myers, Fla. He is also progressing with direction-change drills and will continue defensive work as well.
- Righthander Bailey Ober (right groin strain) threw a 25-pitch bullpen Friday with his full pitch mix and will do some light throwing Saturday before another bullpen progression Aug. 16.
- Starter Kenta Maeda (Tommy John surgery) threw a 30-pitch bullpen Friday, working on his sliders. He'll focus on his curveball grips with some light throwing on flat ground Saturday, returning to the mound Monday.