Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey referred to Miguel Sano's conditioning more than once while delivering the shocking news on Thursday that Sano was being demoted to Class A Fort Myers.
Sano's weight — he reported to training camp weighing 293 pounds — has made him a paunch line. But keep in mind players with bellies can produce at a high level in this game — the All-Star third baseman has a better chance to add 40 points to his batting average than to lose 40 pounds. So solving Sano means solving his swing, and a few weeks in Florida could work for him.
The Sano who has been flailing at breaking pitches off the plate and getting beat by fastballs is not the same player with the prodigious power who was an All-Star last season and finished second to Aaron Judge in the Home Run Derby. This version of Sano is falling behind in the count and flailing after breaking pitches out of the strike zone.
Twins hitting coach James Rowson pointed to the slider, a pitch that Sano is hitting .129 according to Brooks Baseball, as a problem. When he lays off that pitch, it's a sign to Rowson that Sano is in a good place.
"It's one of those things we've really got to lock in on," Rowson said, "getting off that slider that is down and out of the zone."
When Sano sees a slider, it's usually later in the count. And Sano has been brutal when behind in the count, batting .092 with two strikes. That's 310th among players with at least 50 plate appearances in that situation.
Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked bluntly if Sano has a two-strike approach at the moment.
"Yeah. I think he does," Molitor said. "Does he execute it as of late? Not particularly well. He's in a little bit of guess mode. I think that most hitters try to be ready for anything, is what you've got to be. You have to protect against everything, and it seems like he's thinking fastball and he gets a slider. Then he's thinking slider and he gets a fastball."
The results have been horrific. A .203 batting average, seven home runs and 27 RBI in 37 games. His .636 on base-plus-slugging percentage is below Ehire Adrianza's (.727). His strikeout percentage of .405 (!) would lead the majors if he qualified for the leaderboard.
So off to Florida.
The most famous example of such a demotion was the late Roy Halladay, who appeared in 57 games with the Blue Jays before starting 2001 at Class A Dunedin to rework his mechanics. He turned into a Hall of Fame candidate with 203 career wins.
Sano would take that kind of turnaround.
It's a good sign that Sano is on board with pausing his season for this holistic approach to his game. After all, the first step toward solving a problem is admitting that there is one.
Baseball reporters La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller will alternate weeks. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twins blogs: startribune.com/twins