Throw Sano’s imposing frame into this mix, and it’s easy to wonder if he can remain a third baseman. Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor league operations, said Sano’s defense was better the second half of last season and noticed more improvement this spring. The development must continue.
“He’s a big boy, so we have to do what we can to try to help him to be ready to move,’’ Molitor said. “His set-ups are something that we really tried to improve. He’s got massive legs, and he has a tendency to get real low. When he gets real low, his head moves, his body moves and he doesn’t read the ball real well. We’re trying to get him to simplify some things to try to get him to catch the ball.’’
Big error totals are common for prospects. Adrian Beltre, at age 18, committed 37 in 1997 in high Class A. Aramis Ramirez, at 19, committed 39 errors that same year at high A. Scott Rolen — listed at 6-4 and 245 — committed 38 errors at low-A at age 19.
Many errors come from trying to make plays that shouldn’t be attempted. Footwork and positioning are factors, as well. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said the club is not entertaining any thoughts of moving Sano in his second full season of playing third base exclusively.
“I think we are getting ahead of ourselves thinking that this is going to be short-term situation,’’ Ryan said. “He’s got a lot of things that have to go right. He certainly has a wealth of talent, and he’s got all those attributes that you’re thinking about as a third baseman.
“But he had a lot of errors, too many errors. He’s just a kid. Usually the development stage of most players is about five years.’’
Sano was thrilled to get the call Wednesday night that he was going to join the Twins in Tampa against the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Molitor gave Twins manager Ron Gardenhire a heads-up before the team departed for Tampa.
“You gotta watch his set-up,’’ Molitor told Gardenhire.
Sano booted grounders during pregame work. He also banged home runs off the scoreboard in left field and the batter’s eye in center field of Legends Field. He impressed many with his bat speed.
Sano singled on the first pitch thrown to him in the second inning and ended up going 2-for-5 at the plate. Defensively, he had one putout and four assists. His best play came in the seventh inning when he went to his right and backhanded a short-hop down the line. He then threw across his body and deliberately one-hopped the throw to first for the out.
“I know Paul Molitor and him and have been really getting after it and have been working on his approach and his stance on getting reads,’’ Gardenhire said. “Obviously it has been working pretty well, because he got great jumps on the ball. He made a hell of a backhand play down the line.’’
More plays like that give the Twins hope that one of the top power-hitting prospects in baseball can remain a third baseman.
“We know his bat is on a pretty fast track, but we want to know if third base is something he can handle,’’ Molitor said. “It’s just a matter of him being consistent. His positioning needs work. He’s not sure where to be all the time, so that is kind of a constant thing.’’
Sano, for his part, prefers to remain a third baseman.
“My defense, I have been working hard, is better,’’ he said. “I keep trying.’’
With a little help from his Hall of Famer.