Miguel Sano leaned back in his chair inside the Twins clubhouse Thursday, sounding like someone ready to change.
Sano is coming off a season during which his transition to right field was a disaster. Then his return to third base was dreadful. Then he landed on the disabled list once and battled injuries two other times. And the surge at the plate that the Twins expected never came.
One of the building blocks to the Twins’ future, Sano said Thursday that he’s thought a lot about what has happened this year and wants to take the necessary steps to be more than what he’s been.
“My plans for next year are to work harder during the offseason, try to lose weight and come back next year and play the whole season at third base,” Sano said.
If this sounds similar to what he said nearly a year ago, it is. Sano wanted to lose 20 pounds last offseason but only lost a few by the time he reported to spring training.
Teammates, from spring training into the regular season, have had to stay on him about getting in his workouts.
This time, he has to prove to the Twins that he’s serious about getting in shape.
Sano, at one point this season, was pushing 280 pounds. He was 276 in late July. He said on Thursday that he’s been 268-270 recently.
“The team doesn’t want me to lose that much,” Sano said. “They want me to lose 10. But I’m going to lose 20.”
The Twins just want Sano to lose enough to help his agility and to build core strength that could help him avoid injuries.
“We all know it is going to be a big part of my thoughts going forward, about how we can keep him on the field for 140 to 150 games,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said “He’s an unique body type. He’s going to have to find a way to do that, and that has to deal with the day-to-day things he has to deal with, including being ready when he comes into camp.”
Sano plans to spend the first two months of the offseason in New York, where he has a home. He has found a trainer to work with during that time. The agency that represents him, Roc Nation, is based there as well.
“I hope that the time in New York is well spent and that he stays focused on what he needs to do,” Twins interim general manager Rob Antony said. “That’s not the easiest place to maintain focus.”
Sometime in December, Sano will return to his native Dominican Republic. He will not play winter ball but will continue his workouts while taking grounders at third base — he has 14 errors and an .880 fielding percentage — and working on his swing.
To help him continue his progress as a hitter, Sano said he is going to spend time with former major leaguer Manny Ramirez. The 44-year-old just agreed to play for Aguilas of the Dominican Winter League.
“He’s a great hitter and a smart hitter,” Sano said. “He’s unbelievable.”
Sano returned to the lineup Thursday after missing seven games with his latest ailment, a sore back that he said he awoke with one morning. He went 1-for-4 with a double in the Twins’ 9-2 loss to Detroit in the first game of a doubleheader. That put his season numbers at .236 with 23 homers and 60 RBI. Earlier this year, Sano had 221 strikeouts through the first 150 games of his career, the most of any player ever in that many games.
He has struggled with handling velocity in the upper third of the strike zone and shown a propensity for chasing pitches off the outside corner at the knees and below.
“I didn’t hit good enough,” Sano said. “I don’t feel it’s a good season for me this year. But I’m going to try to make an adjustment about my weight and my swing. When I get back to the Dominican I’m going to work really hard with the pitchers and hit breaking balls better.”
The Twins like that Sano understands that he needs to make adjustments. This offseason, they hope he backs it up.
“I think he’s maturing, but he still has a ways to go,” Antony said. “I think he thought it was just going to happen because he has so much talent. It doesn’t happen without the work, the dedication, the focus.
“I think his intentions are good. I’m not sure he always showed the ability to follow through on what he knows is the right thing to do.’’