Buscher gets another crack in bigs
Lamb's struggles open door for rookie at third base
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Buscher came into Spring Training with the hopes of showing the Twins that he deserved a shot at the third-base job.He was tabbed by manager Ron Gardenhire as the team's "most improved player" in the spring, and while Mike Lamb had been signed to be the club's everyday third baseman, Buscher made a strong push for the 25th spot on the roster. But with the Twins looking for a utility man for that slot, Matt Tolbert earned the final roster spot and Buscher was sent down to Triple-A Rochester. "I maybe had a little chip on my shoulder," said Buscher, who hit .319 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 53 games for the Red Wings. "But I just went out there to play every day and do the best I [could], hoping and thinking to myself that maybe they made a wrong move. I just did the best I could, really, and it's all kind of worked out."
With the third-base position in flux for the Twins, Buscher is getting another opportunity to prove that he can be the third baseman that the team has had difficulty finding in recent years. In his first three games since rejoining the team, he was hitting 5-for-13 (.385).Since Corey Koskie departed as a free agent following the 2004 season, the Twins have been unable to find a solid solution at third base. Including this season, a total of 15 different players have seen time at third since the start of the '05 season. Lamb hasn't provided an answer, either. Lamb's struggles -- hitting just .224 in 58 games and being unable to make what the club felt have been routine plays -- have left his job in question. Lamb sat for the fifth straight game on Thursday as Buscher got the nod. "It's a work in progress," Gardenhire said of third base. "We're still trying to find something comfortable from the offensive side and defensive side. Buscher brings a little something different than the other guy. Lamb is a veteran, kind of a laid-back guy. Buscher has a little bit more fire in him. He's worked very hard. Like I said, we're going to use them the best we can." Gardenhire has said he will mix in Lamb, Buscher and Matt Macri at the spot. The Twins don't necessarily view Macri as a potential everyday third baseman. And with Minnesota's noted third-base prospects at least a year away from being able to help the big club, Gardenhire must try to find a solution with what he has now. That means giving Buscher a shot at more playing time to see if can possibly lock up the position -- similar to what Alexi Casilla has done at second base with his improvement. "Buscher is a little more interesting of a project for every day," Gardenhire said. "I don't know how he's going to handle left-handed pitching. I'd like to give him more shots against lefties. "He's made a lot of improvements. He's a guy that I would put out there every day. Lamb, I'm not positive about him. To this point, it's been hit and miss with him." In his short stint with the club in April, Buscher didn't get much of a chance to demonstrate the changes he made. He played in just three games, batting .250 (2-for-8) in that span. Now, getting more opportunities to crack the lineup, Buscher hopes he can show a more consistent presence at the plate and in the field. The infielder has spent a lot of time trying to improve his footwork from last season, and the hope is that it will come through in his play at third. "I think I'm a smarter player now," Buscher said. "I gained a lot of experience playing up here, going back down to Triple-A and knowing what I had to do to get back here. ... This is another opportunity. I just have to make the most of it."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.