MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sano has begun a critical offseason in his so-far-frustrating career with the Minnesota Twins, who plan to keep close tabs on the slugging third baseman frequently waylaid by injuries.
"The plan is to have very consistent touch points," general manager Thad Levine said, "both by phone and quite frankly face to face."
Sano left Minnesota last week for his native Dominican Republic, where he was involved in an incident with police outside a nightclub that left an officer with a broken leg. The incident was deemed an accident and no criminal charges were brought. Last winter, Sano was accused of assaulting a woman but Major League Baseball did not punish him after an investigation yielded insufficient evidence.
For now, though, the focus is on Sano's physical condition. After losing the last six weeks of the 2017 season due to a lower left leg injury that required surgery, Sano missed time in May with a left hamstring injury. Then a hard slide in September resulted in soreness in his left knee, keeping him out of all but one more game the remainder of the season. In between, he was struggling so badly at the plate that he was sent to the minor leagues for about six weeks for a holistic reconditioning.
In a wide-ranging conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Levine and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey expressed the customary optimism about Sano's attitude toward trying to re-establish himself as an All-Star. He'll be asked to make periodic appearances at the team's minor league facility in Fort Myers, Florida, with the possibility of also playing some winter ball. Sano will meet Monday with strength and conditioning staff at the organization's academy in the Dominican Republic.
"We know he's at an important crossroads in his career. He had a tough offseason last year," Falvey said. "This is now an opportunity with what we expect a fully healthy offseason to take meaningful steps forward."
Once his knee is back to normal, Sano will be expected to work on his conditioning. During the last week of the season, he said his goal for 2019 was to report between 245 and 255 pounds. The 6-foot-4 Sano has weighed as much as 290 pounds, but the Twins don't have a specific target in mind for him. They're just aiming for him to be in shape to play a full season, after the 25-year-old batted .199 with 115 strikeouts in 299 plate appearances in 2018.
"We may have been a little bit critical of him at the beginning of the season, relative to the shape," Levine said. "We all know what transpired at the end of the season as a result of that, but I think he deserves some credit. He did shave off some weight."
On other subjects:
— There's no timetable for a decision by Paul Molitor, who was dismissed last week as manager , about whether he'll take a job in baseball operations to stay with the organization. Falvey said the Twins remain optimistic he'll accept.
— With the process of interviewing candidates for Molitor's replacement in full swing, Falvey said there's no target timeline to make a hire despite the competition of five other teams simultaneously searching.
— The Twins have given first baseman Joe Mauer space to spend time with his family as he mulls his future amid the likelihood he'll retire. They don't anticipate an answer until after the World Series, but if Mauer decides he's interested in continuing his playing career, Falvey said, the Twins would be interested in retaining him.
"Obviously there is a lot that goes into signing somebody," Falvey said. "We've always told him we'd welcome Joe back, certainly."
— Center fielder Byron Buxton, who was shut down for the season in September after struggling through more injuries and hitting troubles, was reported to be upset by not being called back up to the Twins from Triple-A. Falvey said recent conversations with Buxton about the future were positive.
"I feel good about where he's headed with us going forward," Falvey said.
— Ehire Adrianza, who served as the regular third baseman when Sano was hurt after filling in frequently at shortstop while Jorge Polanco served his 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing substance, had surgery Tuesday on his non-throwing shoulder to repair a torn labrum that limited him down the stretch. Adrianza will need three to four months to recover, Levine said, which could affect his availability at the beginning of spring training.