A statistic that is probably more circumstantial than telling nonetheless came to mind Wednesday with the news that the Twins put Mitch Garver on the injured list and recalled Miguel Sano.
Counting the Twins’ 26-15 start without Sano this season, they are since the start of 2015:
161-147 when Sano does not play (14 games over .500).
170-211 when Sano plays (41 games under .500).
This is probably a case more of correlation than causation, since Sano has been productive during a decent amount of that time. But particularly in 2018, when the Twins went 28-43 when an often-struggling Sano was in the lineup but went 50-41 when he wasn’t in the lineup, there is maybe some causation.
All of this leads to some interesting questions. While a healthy and productive Sano will help any team, the Twins have a really good thing going right now. It’s natural for fans (and players … and manager Rocco Baldelli) to wonder how to mix Sano back into both the clubhouse and the lineup.
Does he get playing time at the expense of Marwin Gonzalez, who has been the primary third baseman in Sano’s absence? That would have been easier when Gonzalez was struggling, but he has a .372 batting average and 1.018 OPS in his last 12 games.
Does the versatile Gonzalez make a few starts in the outfield to make room for Sano? He could, but that weakens the outfield defense and takes Byron Buxton, Max Kepler or Eddie Rosario off the field.
Does Sano (or Gonzalez) get some time at first base? They’d have to bump C.J. Cron, who has nine home runs and has been steady with his glove (Wednesday’s gaffe notwithstanding).
How about designated hitter? Nelson Cruz should be back from his sore wrist soon, and he should get virtually all those at-bats.
The answer is probably a mix-and-match approach, and all this certainly falls under the heading of “good problem to have.”
But I don’t think the answer is that Sano plays every day — or even almost every day — initially.
We’ll have to see.