DETROIT – This season has been so awful for Miguel Sano, the Twins want him to start over. Beginning with spring training.
Sano — scuffling along with a .203 batting average and more than twice as many strikeouts as hits — was sent back to the Twins’ Florida spring headquarters Thursday in hopes he can regain the power-hitting form that made him an All-Star only 11 months ago.
Technically, Sano was optioned to the Class A Fort Myers Miracle, but this assignment has more to do with Sano’s health, swing and approach — and the Twins’ best tools for addressing them — than any Florida State League games.
“We’re not going to follow the traditional view — ‘just go get at-bats at Triple-A,’ ” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “We wanted to take a step back and blank canvas this a bit and say, ‘What do we think the best next steps are for him?’ … We can do a lot of things with the facility we have there, around strength and conditioning and the work you can do from that side.”
The Twins’ roving instructors are all in Fort Myers now, for instance, as the organization works with new draftees to form rookie-league teams. The team’s weight room is major league quality.
“We have a lot of staff there, inclusive of [hitting instructor] Freddy Guerrero, who’s really close with Miguel,” Falvey said. “We felt like that was the most supportive environment for what we’re going to try to achieve.”
And what’s the goal? Cutting down on strikeouts, restoring Sano’s pitch recognition and working him into better physical shape.
“We have his best interests in mind,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “And we don’t feel right now that we’re getting what we need from him. He’s going to have to go down there and get to work.”
Sano said he understood and respected the Twins’ decision.
“I’m not mad. I’m happy because I’m struggling,” the 25-year-old Dominican said. “You know, this is an opportunity they gave me. I know they love me here and everything. … Everybody here trying to help me. It’s a chance to go there and work, and I’ll come back soon.”
How soon? Falvey said it’s a short-term move. He hopes.
“We don’t have a specific timeline on how long this will take,” he said. “I don’t anticipate he’ll be in Florida forever. It’s just a Step 1 in the process.”
Sano started quickly, hitting three home runs during the season’s first week, and appeared back to the form that earned him an All-Star selection last July. But he fell into a deep slump, missed one month because of a hamstring injury, and has been bedeviled by strikeouts. Sano has struck out at least once in 35 of the 37 games he’s played this season, and his 66 strikeouts easily lead the Twins, despite playing barely half the games.
The fact that the Twins have slumped to a 29-36 record has made things worse, Molitor said.
“It’s really been bothering him that he hasn’t been contributing while we’ve been losing. His biggest goal is to win,” Molitor said. “Some of things have knocked him off course from time to time, and it’s time to address them.”
Sano was unable to fully train during the offseason, after undergoing surgery to place a rod in his left shin in order to reinforce the tibia. He reported to spring training heavier than in 2017, and has been unable to shed much of the weight during the season, particularly after a hamstring injury in late April kept him out of action for a month.
This assignment will be a chance to address that, Falvey said.
“We can use the time away from the major league environment, where you’re competing to get wins every night, to focus on his body and on the swing,” Falvey said. “Let’s start as if we were beginning the season fresh again, and address things that James [Rowson, the Twins’ hitting coach] and the hitting guys feel are important, and at the same time, address some things physically to get him stronger in his lower half.”