CHICAGO — A couple of quick notes from yet another Twins victory:
Paul Molitor grabbed a glove during batting practice Friday and held an impromptu review of the fundamentals of playing first base for Miguel Sano. They worked on footwork around the bag, when to stretch for a throw, and how quickly to move away when holding runners.
With ByungHo Park and Kennys Vargas in the minors, Sano is now Joe Mauer’s backup at first base, at least for the time being. It’s a position he’s played for only five innings in the majors, four of them in an extra-inning game in 2015, and one on Wednesday. Friday was his first career start at the position.
Molitor didn’t play Sano there during spring training because “I didn’t want to clutter his mind, as he tried to lock into being our third baseman.” He probably also didn’t expect both Vargas and Park to be sent down. But Molitor is optimistic that Sano can handle the position.
“He’s in a good place. He’s had good at-bats, and I think he’s feeling good about his game,” Molitor said. “The timing seems right to give it a shot.”
Sano said he enjoyed the experience, and even the tutorial. At his size, he knows first base is probably in his future, but only, he hopes, after several seasons at his preferred position of third base. “It’s fun. I like it,” Sano said after the game. “I know how to play it, so it’s OK. I’m never nervous.”
Byron Buxton was very matter-of-fact about it: I’m not hitting.
It’s been a tough week for the third-year outfielder, who had hoped to get off to a fast start after a strong September last year. But four games in, all at the third spot in the batting order, he is 1-for-18 with 11 strikeouts.
“I ain’t swinging the bat so good,” he said.
He’s unlikely to lose his spot in the lineup anytime soon (though it’s possible he might be moved down in the order), because his defense has been as spectacular as ever. Two great running catches on Friday turned 400-foot missiles to the warning track into two more outs that most outfielders couldn’t have made.
Buxton was busy all night; he caught eight fly balls, tying his career-high. But he wasn’t the only one displaying great defense.
Max Kepler raced to the foul line and made a diving catch of Tim Anderson’s sinking liner in the fifth inning. And Eddie Rosario leaped at the left field wall to haul in Todd Frazier’s near-home run in the sixth.
How good can the Twins’ outfield be?
“The sky’s the limit,” Buxton said. “We’re very competitive out there. We want to catch everything. I’m very blessed to have those two by my side.”
— In addition to the 4-0 start, the Twins are now 1-0 on the road for the first time since 2009.
— With two innings from Tyler Duffey on Friday and another save by Brandon Kintzler, the Twins’ bullpen has thrown 13 innings now without allowing a run. The Orioles are the only other bullpen with zero runs allowed this year.