A storm delayed Byron Buxton’s arrival, Phil Hughes was sidelined by a kidney stone and Addison Reed couldn’t make it on such short notice. Every other player on the Twins’ 40-man roster is in attendance at TwinsFest this weekend, except one.
Miguel Sano remains at Twins camp in Fort Myers, Fla., putting his surgically repaired shin through daily workouts in hopes of being ready when the season opens March 29. He is also waiting to hear whether he will be eligible to play. And in the meantime, his absence was noted Friday.
“It’s a little weird without him,” shortstop Jorge Polanco said. “Maybe he misses us, too.”
No word on that, and no word yet from Major League Baseball on what their investigation into an alleged assault two years ago has uncovered. Betsy Bissen, a photographer who shot a handful of Twins games in 2015 and ’16, triggered the inquiry when she posted on Twitter a description of an incident at Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka during the final weekend of the 2015 season. Sano, her post said, tried to kiss her and pull her into a bathroom after an autograph session at the mall, an accusation that Sano denied in a statement.
Sano’s mid-August stress reaction and the Nov. 13 surgery to help it heal — a steel rod was inserted into his left shin to stabilize the bone — already created uncertainty about the All-Star slugger’s availability. Potential penalties for the 24-year-old under Major League Baseball’s two-year-old policy on violence and sexual assault have only added to the cloud surrounding him.
The Twins remain optimistic about Sano’s recovery, though Derek Falvey, the team’s chief baseball officer, acknowledged Friday that he won’t necessarily be ready for full workouts when camp opens next month. As for the accusations against Sano, Falvey made it clear that the team knows as little about the status of the investigation as the general public.
“We don’t have any clarity about the specifics of it at this point,” Falvey said. “MLB informed us of the investigation, and they said they would work through it as quickly as possible. But they won’t disclose anything to us until a decision has been reached.”
That’s because, under the policy negotiated between MLB and the players union, the teams have no role in the investigation; the commissioner’s office handles it, and Commissioner Rob Manfred decides whether to impose penalties, and what they will be. The agreement calls for players to cooperate with investigators, but it’s not known whether Sano has been interviewed by MLB’s department of investigations yet.
“At this stage, we are just being supportive of MLB’s process. It was jointly agreed upon by the Players Association and MLB, and we respect that,” Falvey said. “We recognize there are aspects to a normal investigation process that take time. I wouldn’t say we’re concerned about it at this stage. We don’t want to set any expectations about having a decision around a certain date.”
Sano’s case is the seventh investigated by MLB under the new policy, but it differs from the other six in some important ways: The allegations were more than two years old, and there was no police involvement.
In the other six cases, the penalties covered a wide range of outcomes. Atlanta outfielder Hector Olivera served an 82-game suspension, and then-Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes served two months. Last September, catcher Derek Norris was suspended for the final month of the season and ordered to make a $100,000 donation to a domestic violence prevention organization.
But no penalty was imposed on Yasiel Puig after an investigation could find no evidence that the Dodgers outfielder had assaulted his sister during a 2016 bar fight, as reported by a celebrity-gossip website.
Sano chose to skip TwinsFest as the investigation continues, and Falvey said the team had no objection, especially since he can continue to rehab.
“We’ve viewed this all along as a matter of getting him ready for Opening Day, not the first day of camp,” Falvey said, “and there’s no reason to think he won’t.”