Miguel Sano went into the indoor cages in Yankee Stadium on Monday to get some swings in. And the Twins realized about that time that their slugging third baseman was not ready to play in biggest game of the year.
So the club submitted its roster for the wild card game without Sano, who has been unable to heal after suffering a stress reaction in his left shin on Aug. 18.
"I was still open-minded, despite the fact I knew Sunday was not a good day, that he might be available in one at bat, one swing," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He went to the cage before we took the filed yesterday and was just having trouble bracing on his front side and couldn't get any leverage on his swing.
"The persistent discomfort he is dealing with is not conducive to him contributing. I give him credit for trying to cram."
Sano appeared in the final three games of the regular season, which was his first action since Aug, 19. He went 1-for-8 with three strikeouts, as his bat looked rusty. The Twins hoped that Sano could come off the bench to provide a threat late in tonight's game. But they will have to proceed like they have over the last six weeks without him.
"He was emotional when I talked to him," Molitor said. "I'm trying to understand and be empathetic to a guy who desperately wants to play and be a part of this. I'm sure he is frustrated. It gets taken away from you and the answers are hard to come by. I think it has been hard for him."
Sano remains an option for the ALDS roster - provided that the Twins win tonight. It would be easier to carry him as the last man on the roster in that format.
So the Twins went with an 11-man pitching staff for tonight's game. Gabriel Moya was in the running to be the third lefty out of the pen, but that role is going to Adalberto Mejia. Molitor said he could not come up with a scenario in which he would need Moya in a nine-inning game. While Mejia could appear during the game, it suggests he would be used if the game goes into extra innings.
"If the game gets extended past nine, I feel good about having Mejia, I'll tell you that," Molitor said.
Molitor said he team appeared to be loose. There was laughter in the clubhouse, and he sensed it was just like any regular season game.
"They wanted to wear shorts for batting practice," Molitor said. "I don't know. The signs so far have been good. We have two and half hours to go. We'll see if it changes."
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Jorge Polanco, SS
Eddie Rosario, LF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Max Kepler, RF
Byron Buxton, CF
Jason Castro, C
Robbie Grossman, DH
Ervin Santana, RHP
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Judge, RF
Gary Sanchez, C
Did Gregorius, SS
Starlin Castro, 2B
Greg Bird, 1B
Aaron Hicks, CF
Jacoby Ellsbury, DH
Tood Frazier, 3B
Luis Severino, RHP