KANSAS CITY, Mo. – You know Miguel Sano’s reputation. Put a pitch in the wrong place and you won’t see that baseball ever again.
But Sano revealed something Twins fans might not know about him Thursday night, during his major league debut: “I’m a little bit fast.”
The proof of that was sitting on a shelf in his locker at Kauffman Stadium, the baseball that he, admittedly, dribbled about 50 feet toward third base in the ninth inning, not the most titanic clout of his career. But Sano hustled down the line, beat Mike Moustakas’ throw and ended up with a souvenir that he will present to his mother, Melania, when he sees her in the Twin Cities on Monday.
“I’m really happy about my first hit in the major leagues,” Sano beamed after a 1-for-4 night during the Twins’ 2-0 victory over the Royals. “I feel really good.”
So good, in fact, that Sano intends never to participate in a minor league game again.
“I say, I stay here my whole life,” the 22-year-old Dominican said. “Never send [me] down.”
That would be fine with manager Paul Molitor, who hopes that Sano’s presence turns around the Twins’ slow midseason fade.
“It’s exciting for my staff and myself and the players,” Molitor said after batting Sano sixth as the designated hitter. “We’re looking for a pick-me-up. We’ve tried a couple different things to jump-start us a little bit. You hope he’s that guy. He’s going to add a presence to that lineup. It’s kind of fun to put his name down and see how it works out.”
There were some good signs Thursday, despite his two strikeouts. Sano stung a Chris Young slider to center field in the first inning, but Lorenzo Cain caught it. And he worked the count to 3-2 in both of his next two at-bats before whiffing on sliders, both times with two out and a runner at third — once against Young, once against lefthander Franklin Morales.
Hitting breaking pitches been a persistent problem — Sano had 68 strikeouts in 66 games with Class AA Chattanooga this season — but one Sano is honest about, and determined to fix.
“Yeah, they’re trouble,” Sano said of sliders and curves. “But I try to compete with the pitcher. They throw me bad breaking ball, I let it go. They groove [a pitch], that’s what I hit.”
Hitting is important, since it’s probably all Sano will be asked to do for a while. Molitor made it clear Sano probably won’t play third base or any other position, though the Twins want him to keep working on his defense. He might get into a game or two at third base between now and the All-Star break, but “I expect him to be a DH.” Molitor also assured Trevor Plouffe that he remains a fixture at third.
None of that matters to Sano, not now. At 22 years old, he has finally achieved a dream he has had since childhood, and he’s thrilled to be here. After a morning flight from Birmingham, Ala., he arrived in Kansas City around 1:30 p.m. with his wife, met up with his sister and a couple of friends, and went to the ballpark to prepare for his first game. He watched video of Royals starter Chris Young with Torii Hunter in the clubhouse before the game, getting pointers on the righthander’s offspeed stuff, then took batting practice.
Sano said he had to pretend to be surprised when Chattanooga manager Doug Mientkiewicz announced to the Lookouts that he had been promoted. Sano actually got the news when it spread around Twitter, so when Mientkiewicz made his “Welcome to the Show” speech in the clubhouse, he was mostly relieved that the decision was official.
“It was a good moment,” Sano said. “I was really happy when they told me.”
Getting that first hit on a “swinging bunt” off All-Star closer Greg Holland was a good moment, too, especially because it helped produce an insurance run. Shane Robinson pinch ran for him — OK, Sano is “not a clogger,” Molitor said, but the manager is realistic about his speed — and scored on Eduardo Escobar’s two-out triple.
“I don’t know if [an infield hit] is a good thing or a bad thing, but he won’t forget it,” Molitor said. “He had some really good swings his second and third at-bat. … He looked pretty comfortable. For the most part, I thought he stayed on the ball pretty well.”