NEW YORK – Tuesday marked exactly one month since Miguel Sano last played a game for the Twins. The chances that it was his last game in 2017 — even if the Twins qualify for the postseason and advance beyond a one-game playoff — grow larger with every hour that ticks by.
“We’re down to a dozen games here,” manager Paul Molitor said in observance of the unhappy anniversary. “My biggest concern now is, even if he gets to a point where I can get him on the field in any capacity, it’s going to be, how much of a challenge is it for him to have any type of timing at all, with some of the pitching we have to face? It’s going to be hard to give away at-bats, just to hope he’s got it.”
Postseason rosters don’t have to be finalized until the first game of a series, and can be changed between rounds (the wild-card game is considered one round), so the Twins still have two weeks to ramp up Sano’s rehab from a stress reaction in his left shin, suffered when he fouled a ball off his leg. The pain he feels when running and hitting continues to nag Sano, who still wears a walking boot every day.
Even having missed a month, Sano still ranks second on the Twins in home runs (28) and RBI (77), and he’s the team leader in on-base plus slugging percentage (.870). But he’s their runaway leader in strikeouts, too, with 170, and Molitor would prefer to get Sano some live at-bats before putting him in the lineup. Trouble is, minor league seasons are over, and the fall instructional league in Florida has been postponed as the cleanup from Hurricane Irma goes on.
“You’d like to find the right fit on a given day, where maybe [you say], ‘Hey, this could be a good way to get him back if he’s physically able,’ ” Molitor said. “It’s hard to speculate until we get to where someone tells me, ‘He’s going to give it a shot and he’s got clearance and he feels good enough to run 75 percent.’ I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
Severino starts finale
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had planned to give his ace, righthander Luis Severino, an extra day off and keep the Twins from getting a look at him before a wild-card game next month. But Girardi announced Tuesday that he has changed his mind.
In order to have the flexibility to start Severino three times in the season’s final two weeks, just in case there’s a chance of catching Boston for the AL East title, Girardi decided to keep Severino on his regular rest, which means starting him Wednesday against Twins righthander Bartolo Colon. Masahiro Tanaka had been the announced starter for the finale.
Severino is 13-6 with a 2.93 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 184 innings this season, and if the Yankees don’t catch the Red Sox, he’s the likely starter in a wild-card game. So getting an early look at him might help the Twins in a couple of weeks — but it makes their task in getting there more difficult.
Master of interference
Molitor drew “at least a handful, if not more” catcher’s interference calls when he was a player, so he wasn’t particularly surprised to see Jacoby Ellsbury be awarded first base after the New York outfielder’s bat ticked Jason Castro’s glove on Monday.
“People who have trust enough to let the ball get deep [in the strike zone] are going to have an opportunity to do that more than somebody else,” Molitor said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if [catcher Chris] Gimenez scoots back just a hair tonight.”
Ellsbury reached on catcher’s interference for the 31st time in his career, extending the major league record he set last week.