BOSTON - Twins General Manager Thad Levine walked past Miguel Sano as he was talking about next month’s Home Run Derby in Miami and quickly handicapped the competition. “He’s a winner,” Levine said of the 24-year-old slugger. “That’s why he’ll win. He’s a winner.”
That’s certainly Sano’s intention, but his manager believes that, for all of Sano’s power, his real secret is that he doesn’t try to hit homers. He tries to hit the ball hard, Paul Molitor said, and there’s a difference.
“To be honest, Miggy doesn’t try to hit the ball over the fence in batting practice very often. Maybe in the last round he gets a little competitive with Kennys [Vargas] every now and then,” Molitor said. “But he tries to stay inside the ball, really tries to work on making sure his swing is prepared for the game rather than seeing how far he can hit it. So this will be a little different for him.”
It’s an opportunity he’s been waiting for, said Sano, who needs two more home runs to become the first Twins player since Justin Morneau in 2009 to reach 20 by the All-Star break. Now he would also like to join Morneau (in 2008) as the only Twins to win the Derby.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve always wanted to do this,” Sano said. “I waited a long time and now I’ve got my opportunity.”
Sano agreed with Molitor’s analysis — “I just try to hit the ball the hardest I can,” he said — but said he doesn’t plan to change his approach and probably won’t practice the most-homers-in-five-minutes format ahead of time. “I don’t need to practice,” he said. “I just do it like in a game. I don’t need to get pressure on me. I can hit the ball hard.”
He hits it harder this year — his average exit velocity of 95 miles per hour is second only to Yankees rookie Aaron Judge (95.8) in the majors — in part because of his offseason work with former major leaguer Fernando Tatis, Sano said. “He worked really hard with me all winter and made me work really hard,” Sano said.
He intends to invite Tatis to pitch to him at the Derby. “I want to give him the chance,” Sano said. “He made me a better hitter.”