Versatility gives Buscher a chance
Twins move prospect around infield, hoping to find utility man
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brian Buscher has already added one new defensive position to his repertoire this spring, but it appears that more are on the way.The Twins asked the third baseman to start taking ground balls at first base when he first arrived at camp. Now, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that the club will try to see if Buscher can extend his versatility to other positions in the infield -- second base for certain, and possibly shortstop. "We'll probably put him out in the middle of the infield soon," Gardenhire said. "We're throwing a lot on his table, but it's just to give him more options -- more options to make this baseball team." The Twins' desire to try to find more space for Buscher is understandable. He has been one of the club's true standouts so far this spring. "He came in ready to play, probably more ready than anybody out here as far as what he needed to do with his swing, et cetera," Gardenhire said. "I've been really impressed with what I've seen so far this spring." Prior to arriving in camp, Buscher had never truly played any position other than third. But having signed Mike Lamb to a two-year, $6.6 million deal this offseason to be their starting third baseman, the Twins have had to become a bit more creative when it comes to opportunities for Buscher. Right now, Buscher is in competition to be the 25th man on the club's roster. It's a role that currently appears to be up in the air, as Gardenhire said he is looking at either an extra infielder or an extra outfielder for the final roster spot. But the Twins feel that Buscher could inhabit the spot. "Right now his role would be extra guy -- extra infielder, spot play at first, second, third, whatever," Gardenhire said. "That's why we are moving him around a bit. He's come in and done so well and worked so hard that you try to give him every opportunity to make this ballclub.
Whichever way the Twins choose to go with that spot, it's pretty clear that Gardenhire is looking for a player who can be versatile. So it's understandable that Buscher has taken every little opportunity to add to his skills that the Twins will give him."The more positions you can learn, the more value you have as a player," Buscher said. "So I think it can only help me." Adding defensive positions seems like a far cry from the situation Buscher found himself in when he was called up to the Twins last season. By hitting .244 over 33 games with the Twins last season after being called up in late July, Buscher intrigued the club. But his defense left a little to be desired. "When he came up, we thought he was a little flat-footed, he was a little nervous and the whole package," Gardenhire said. "We did a lot of work with him." The Twins' coaching staff spent hours with Buscher during every series -- home or away -- trying to help him shore up his defense. It was an effort to see if he could carry it over into this spring. And when Buscher arrived this spring, the Twins were more than impressed by what they saw. Not only was Buscher in even better shape than he had been in last season, he arrived having drastically improved his defense through some extra work this offseason. The Twins' coaching staff noticed another big difference in Buscher. They say he seems more relaxed and comfortable at this level. He's also been one of the first players to arrive in the clubhouse every morning. He and Justin Morneau have been among the first players in the cages and in the weight room. That work ethic, along with his production on the field, have turned Buscher into a force to be reckoned with this spring. And according to Buscher, it's all a result of having experienced a small taste of the big leagues last season and not wanting to give up the opportunity to return. "The alarm goes off now every morning, and it's not, 'Oh, I have to go back to the field again,'" Buscher said. "It's a feeling now of, 'I've got to go win a position.'"
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.