FORT MYERS, FLA. – When Miguel Sano reported to spring training Feb. 17, the Twins third baseman revealed he had a cut on the skin covering his lower right Achilles area, and it needed a few days to heal.
Two days later, he was wearing a walking boot to protect the cut. Sano was supposed to wear the boot for seven to 10 days. When the Twins checked the wound a week later, they announced it was only 80 percent healed, and Sano’s recovery would last into the beginning of March.
But the timeline hit worse-case scenario Tuesday. Sano likely will miss more than the first month of the season after he underwent a debridement at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, a procedure that head trainer Tony Leo described as an “aggressive intervention.”
Sano will need a few weeks to recover before he can begin baseball-related activities. Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said there’s a chance that Sano’s 2019 season debut will not take place until May.
“He’s out of the picture right now for Opening Day,” Falvey said.
After he hit just .199 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 2018, Sano is hoping for a comeback season. He spent much of last season in the minors working on his conditioning after his 2017 All-Star season ended with him having a rod inserted into his lower left leg to help mend a stress reaction.
Sano spent the offseason working out in his native Dominican Republic, losing 25 pounds, but his plans to hit the ground running in spring training were derailed Jan. 26. During a “Cavalcade of Champions” celebration in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Sano was injured when one of his winter ball teammates slipped and fell into him, causing him to cut himself on a metal stair.
The 25-year-old has been unable to hit or field ever since.
“There’s not a disappointment in Miguel,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There’s more of a disappointment for him. I actually feel bad that he’s dealing with what he’s dealing with. He’s had a great winter coming into this spring. He played, he’s in phenomenal shape, he’s strong and I feel for the guy that he’s dealing with this.”
When Sano reported to camp, there were 12 stitches on the back of his Achilles area, and some infection. As time went on, parts of the area were healing and others were not. The Twins shared photos with specialists in their network, and the decision was made to have the debridement — a procedure in which the wound is cleaned and dead, infected or damaged tissue is removed to help stimulate healing.
Dr. Nho V. Tran performed the procedure, during which two sutures were attached to help hold the wound together. After the debridement, a vacuum-assisted closure that will constantly pump antiseptic into the wound was connected to the area.
Sano will remain at Mayo Clinic for another two or three days, after which he will be in a hard splint for another handful of days.
Then Sano will be fitted with the boot again. Because the laceration is horizontal, normal walking can cause the cut to reopen. The boot restricts movement in that area.
“Then he has another week of catching up with some movement stuff,” Falvey said, “but he won’t be out of that boot and doing any activity until we get to April.”
Sano, who will return to Fort Myers within a week and likely will travel with the team to the Twin Cities when it breaks camp, will then be challenged to get back into playing condition. He has to have his own personal spring training, in which he sharpens his baseball skills and gets his timing down at the plate before a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
Once out of the boot, Sano could need another month before he is ready to step into the Twins lineup.
Marwin Gonzalez, signed as a free agent on Feb. 25, probably will fill in at third base. Ehire Adrianza and Willians Astudillo can also play third.
Sano’s fight to have fewer setbacks to a promising career is a battle he is losing.
“Obviously we wish we weren’t in these circumstances and we weren’t dealing with this,” Baldelli said, “but we’re just going to have to react.
“Miguel’s going to take care of business and he’s done everything that’s been asked of him and he’ll continue to do so. I’m sure of it.”