The time might have come for people to stop obsessing over Miguel Sano’s weight.
As in: Who cares about his paunch? The question is, will he provide more punch to the Twins offense? Is he prepared to distance himself from a lost 2018 season to do his part to keep the club atop the American League Central?
Sano returned to the home-run happy Twins on Wednesday when he was activated from the injured list after recovering from a laceration just above his right heel, which cost him all of spring training. He replaces Mitch Garver, who landed on the 10-day injured list because of a high ankle sprain.
Sano met briefly with reporters after the Twins held on for an 8-7 win over the Angels at Target Field. He feels good, he said several times in several ways. But one comment stood out, when he was asked about the difference between this season and last.
“We have a better team,” he said. “We aren’t relying on one player. We’ve got [Nelson] Cruz, [C.J.] Cron, [Eddie] Rosario, [Jorge] Polanco, [Max] Kepler, Byron [Buxton]. They’re hitting good. We’re ready to go. Like I said, we have a great team. Those guys play hard every day, and they play to win.”
Since several Twins have been productive in various ways, Sano, 26, will enter a lineup in which he’s not the fulcrum. The Twins don’t have to put him third or fourth in the order. He doesn’t have to try to hit like a third or fourth hitter. Once an All-Star, he can now play a contributing role.
“I talked to him the other day on his birthday,” Buxton said. “That’s pretty much all he talked about. He’s ready to get back up here. He’s ready to play. He’s feeling good. He feels healthy. I just tried to tell him to make sure you are ready. Don’t try to be Superman. Don’t try to do something that doesn’t feel good to you.”
Sano stayed in contact with several Twins during his rehabilitation. That includes conversations with Cruz, whose clubhouse stall will be next to Sano’s. The mentoring of Sano by Cruz, which was discussed during the Twins’ recruitment of Cruz during free agency, will no longer be a long distance one.
Buxton certainly understands what Sano has been through, as he spent more of his injury-plagued 2018 season in the minors than he wanted. He seethed when he wasn’t called up in September but returned with an edge to his game, and he’s producing.
Sano batted .199 with 13 homers in 71 games last season. He landed on the disabled list because of a sore hamstring. He also landed in Fort Myers, as he worked on his conditioning for several weeks. Then he suffered a lower left leg bruise on Sept. 4 when he slid into second base in Houston, injuring the same leg in which he had a titanium rod inserted after the 2017 season.
After losing 25 pounds during this past offseason, he injured his heel during a celebration for the winter ball team he played on, leading to his late arrival this season.
While Sano reported to camp 25 pounds lighter, Buxton saw someone channeling frustration into motivation.
“It was kind of like he understood my process from last year to now,” Buxton said. “I know how confident he is and how prepared he is.
“He looked like the Sano we had in the minor leagues. His focus. You could tell he had something to prove this year.”
Sano playing with something to prove is something the Twins are very interested in. More than what size his pants are.
“It’s time. It’s time,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s put in the work. He put in the work all offseason. He put in the work all year. He’s dealt with about as difficult of a situation he could probably deal with based on everything last year and this year. I’m extremely excited to see him step on the field and be ready to go, and I think he’s even more excited than I am.”