FORT MYERS, FLA. – Paul Molitor said when Twins camp opened that it might take two weeks for Miguel Sano to convince him and the team’s trainers that he’s ready to play. Sano has managed to cut that timetable in half.
The All-Star third baseman, recovering from offseason leg surgery and consequently getting a late start on conditioning, will make his spring debut Wednesday if everything proceeds as it has so far, the Twins manager said Sunday.
“My biggest concern was how he felt physically with the leg, but he hasn’t been inhibited at all as far as doing drills and taking swings and ground balls. We’re trying to get him as risk-free as possible when he gets into the games,” Molitor said. “His conditioning was behind, we all knew that.
“It’s been an ongoing process since January. We’re just trying to get him ready. We’re trying to show patience. I know he’s really anxious to play.”
Molitor even plans to start him in the field right away, though he didn’t specify whether he means third or first base. But “I’d just as soon get him out there,” rather than start with a couple of games at designated hitter, Molitor said. “He’s been real good about coming in and getting his work in.”
Sano won’t be the only spring debut Wednesday, either. Molitor tentatively plans to start Joe Mauer against the Rays that day as well, and again Friday. It’s a reprise of the easing-him-in schedule that Molitor used last spring, and the first baseman, who turns 35 in April, responded with one of his strongest season in years.
“I’m trying to slow him down a little bit,” Molitor said. “It seemed like a good plan for him last year, and we’re sticking with it.”
Evening up his eyes
Kennys Vargas doubled down the left-field line against Orioles lefthander Nestor Cortes on Saturday, and felt relieved.
It was Vargas’ first plate appearance since being fitted with a contact lens in his left eye, a change the switch hitter hopes finally pays off with a regular job in the Twins lineup.
A recent exam revealed a slight difference between his left and right eyes, and the lens, he said, brings him close to 20-20 vision in both. “Maybe that will help,” Vargas said. “I hope I can hit righties now with the lens.”
After pulling the double down the line against Cortes — and in a night game, too — Vargas is encouraged.
“I was seeing the ball really good,” he said. “I’ve never seen it that clear.”
Clark pays a visit
Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Players Association, met with Twins players Sunday morning and answered their questions about the slow pace of free agency this winter, and the new pace-of-play rules unilaterally instituted by Commissioner Rob Manfred.
The latter issue figures to linger, given that negotiations between MLB and the union failed to produce an agreement on speeding up the game.
“We were moving things in a way we were hopeful was going to land on some common ground,” Clark said. “There just wasn’t enough common ground.”
But the focus on the issue might spur the players to speed up the game on their own, Clark suggested, adding: “We know that any and all of those adjustments have guys thinking about things they normally haven’t.”
Brian Dozier, Erick Aybar and Phil Hughes make their spring debuts Monday as the Twins face St. Louis at Hammond Stadium.