The Twins are tentatively planning to have Miguel Sano make his Class AAA debut in Rochester, N.Y., on Friday, the start of a rehab stint intended to prepare him to return from a hamstring injury.
How long Sano will stay in Rochester hasn’t been determined yet, Twins manager Paul Molitor said. Nor has one other important detail: What position will he play?
“They haven’t said anything to me” about where he will play once he is cleared to return, Sano said Tuesday. Is he still an outfielder? “I think so. Nobody has said I’m not.”
That’s because that critical decision hasn’t been made yet, Molitor said.
“That’s a fair question. In all honesty, we’ve been having discussions about how we want to integrate him back into games on rehab, as well as up here,” Molitor said. “It’s not finalized yet.”
The nature of Sano’s injury makes the decision tricker. The 23-year-old, who started in right field 37 times in his first 50 games this season, strained the hamstring while running to first base on May 31, but potentially, there is far more running necessary in the outfield than at third base, his position throughout his minor league career. And designated hitter, the duty he manned in 2015, is the safest position of all.
“I have asked [myself], if he was coming back from a wrist injury, would I treat going back in the outfield differently than a hamstring injury? And probably the answer is yes,” Molitor said. “It’s probably something to consider.”
So is the fact that Max Kepler is showing signs of making right field his permanent home. The 23-year-old rookie has improved as his playing time has increased, and, after a bunt single Tuesday, has a seven-game hitting streak. Since moving into the starting lineup on a regular basis 11 games ago, Kepler has hit .310 with two homers and five doubles..
Meanwhile, Eddie Rosario has gotten hot at Rochester (.344 with three home runs in June), and Robbie Grossman has excelled in left field.
“We have these parts here [and] we’re trying to find how they fit the best — including some other young outfielders that are doing fairly well,” Molitor said.
It’s possible Sano could return to right field and Kepler move to center, a position Byron Buxton and Danny Santana have filled with great defense but little offense so far. Or there could be a reshuffling of the Trevor Plouffe-Joe Mauer-Byung Ho Park trio at third base, first base and DH.
Molitor would like to settle on a plan by the time Sano leaves for Rochester, so he can focus on whatever position he, the coaching staff and General Manager Terry Ryan decide. And no matter what, he intends for the burly 270-pound slugger to play defense somewhere “just to get on the field to prove, at least from a health standpoint, that he can do that.”
Ryan, though, said the team might make no decision until they see how he performs. “I’m more worried about his hitting, to be honest. We need him swinging the bat,” Ryan said. As for Sano’s defense, “that’ll take care of itself. We want to make sure he’ll have an opportunity to play various spots. … Somehow, it’ll work out. It always does.”
Sano’s health is no longer in doubt — as far as Sano is concerned. He crowed Tuesday about how well he performed in the series of running tests he’s undertaken over the past few days. “Feels good. I’m really good,” Sano said. “I want to play.”
He’s made that clear, Molitor said. “He’s hungry to get out and play. Between the diagnosis and our concern about making sure this is something that doesn’t get repeated, we’re proceeding cautiously,” the manager said. “I thought he had a really good day out there today. Running was what I was most concerned about. He’s been swinging the bat now for awhile.”
So Miguel, what’s it going to be? Back to the outfield, move to the infield, go back to last year’s DH spot or some combo? “Wherever they want me to play,” he said agreeably. “They pay me.”
• Glen Perkins’ shoulder surgery will take place Thursday morning in southern California, Ryan said. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the operation to repair two tears in Perkins’ labrum, a procedure that will keep the Twins closer out of action until next spring.
• Darin Mastroianni reported to Class AAA Rochester on Friday to begin rehabbing from his strained oblique, but he has been unable to play thus far. “There was a little bit of a setback there,” Molitor said. “He went out of here feeling like he was ready to play, and then ran into some discomfort in some of his swinging the first day he was there. We’re not going to put him in a game until he’s ready.”