Miguel Sano entered the offseason with a diet and exercise plan to help him lose 20 pounds. That was the hope.
Sano smiled on Friday as he talked about his weight loss — all of 5 pounds, from 268 to 263.
“I lost like 5 pounds and really feel good like that,” he said.
Well, he must plan to lose more weight during spring training then.
“No,” he said. “I don’t want to lose any more. Don’t lose the pop.”
That guarantees that the Twins will have one big body in right field when spring training opens next month, as Sano moves there after being the designated hitter last season. The transition will begin in earnest this week when he arrives in Fort Myers, Fla., to work out at the Twins complex.
After recording a commercial with Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins in Minneapolis on Monday, Sano will head to Florida to chase down fly balls before position players report on Feb. 26. Minor league field coordinator Joel Lepel, from Plato, Minn., will be on hand to help him.
Instead of covering ground with Torii Hunter in right field, center fielder Byron Buxton will spend camp patrolling the outfield with Sano.
“Man,” Buxton said, “I’m just going to try to not get run over.”
The Twins had Latin American scout Fred Guerrero call Sano during the offseason to inform him of their decision to move him to the outfield. They knew they had a chance to land Korean slugger Byung Ho Park and hatched the plan when Park signed on Dec. 1. Sano remained at third base for Estrellas of the Dominican Winter League but took fly balls during batting practice.
But Sano, a few days later, decided to stop playing for Estrellas to focus on his offseason conditioning. He spent the rest of the offseason working out with major leaguers Robinson Cano, Johnny Cueto and other players. The Twins have not voiced any concerns about Sano’s current physical condition.
Sano and Cano are friends, which led to Sano signing with Roc Nation Sports — the same company that represents Cano — earlier this month.
Twins manager Paul Molitor initially thought about putting Sano in left field, but the decision has been made to put him in right field and not disrupt Eddie Rosario, who racked up 16 assists last season, tied for the second-most in baseball.
“I’m optimistic,” Molitor said. “More so than a lot of people.”
Sano, 22, was signed as a shortstop in 2009 but focused on third base after 2011. With Trevor Plouffe at third and Joe Mauer at first, the outfield, in the Twins’ eyes, is the best move for him as he looks to become one of the best young sluggers in the game.
“He used to be a shortstop,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “The reason we‘re doing it because this guy is athletic, and we know he can really throw and he is a surprisingly good runner. That equates into an outfield skill set, so we’re going to give this a chance.”
Sano batted .269 in 80 games with 18 home runs and 52 RBI after being called up from Class AA Chattanooga on July 2. He thinks he will hit better if he’s playing defense instead of sitting on the bench between at-bats — which is a scary thought.
Twins coach Butch Davis, who will work with Sano, asked him to take fly balls before a few games last year and liked what he saw.
“I watched his reaction and his jumps on the ball, and it wasn’t bad at all,” Davis said. “They want him to play, and he’s too young to DH. He’s looking forward to it. I talked to him a little bit.”
The recently retired Hunter will be part of the transition team during his 10-day stint as a special camp instructor. Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, will help Sano hone his outfield skills.
“I’m really excited about that,” Sano said. “He help me a lot last year in Minnesota.”
The Twins aren’t expecting Sano to quickly become a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder. Davis said they would like to get him to be average first, making the routine plays, and go from there. They expect all manner of mistakes — breaking poorly on balls, taking bad routes, throwing to the wrong base, to name a few. They just hope he gets better at it. If Sano settles into right field it will help a lineup that depends on his power.
What encourages the Twins so far is that Sano has embraced the move.
“I’m really happy about the chance Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan give me to be in the lineup,” Sano said. “If I need to play catcher, first base, whatever, I’ll play it because I want to be in the lineup.’’