When Miguel Sano signed with the Twins in September 2009 and received a $3.15 million signing bonus, it was the second-highest total for a player from the Dominican Republic in league history. So the expectations always have been high for Sano, but it is amazing that he has been able to come from Class AA Chattanooga and have the success he has had with the Twins so far this season.

Sano missed all of last season after having Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. He struggled in his first 23 games with the Lookouts this season, going 13-for-80 (.163 average) with three doubles and five home runs.

But in his next 43 games, Sano hit .329 with a .412 on-base percentage with 10 home runs, 36 RBI and 41 runs scored. He was called up by the Twins on July 2.

It’s a small sample size, but in 11 games with the Twins, Sano is hitting .378 with a .489 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage. He has four doubles, two home runs, eight RBI and four runs scored in 45 plate appearances.

Manager Paul Molitor said that while the Twins have often had high expectations for Sano, he has been pleasantly surprised by his performance.

“I was hoping he would give us a little bit of a lift, I really didn’t know [what to expect],” Molitor said. “I hadn’t seen him since spring training, but the surprise is just the maturity in which he has gone about his business and his professionalism and his at-bats. I know he’s a talented kid and his bat is far beyond his years as far as what he can do and power. He is taking his walks, getting his hits, and he’s going to be a big part of our lineup going into the second half.”

After Sano hit a two-run homer in the Twins’ 7-1 victory against Detroit on Sunday heading into the All-Star break, the 22-year-old said he doesn’t view himself as being a complete hitter yet.

“I’m working hard every day,” he said. “I try to, all the time when I get to an at-bat, I try to hit the ball better and wait for my moment.”

Most everyone in the organization acknowledges that it was good for Sano to be coached by Doug Mientkiewicz and have Chad Allen as his hitting coach.

“I missed a couple of games at Chattanooga, but I tried to, you know, work on my approach and work hard and things like that,” Sano said. “I want to hit the ball to right field, to the middle, more towards right.”

Even after the great start to his Twins career, Sano said everything about his baseball career has changed quickly since coming to the big leagues.

“The pitchers throw better here, everything is different, the pitcher, the ball, the sun here, everything,” he said. “I try to hit the ball hard and then you get homers and RBI. I’m working a lot with the coaches and everything here and I’m trying to get better every day.”

Borchardt improving

Wide receiver Jeff Borchardt, tackle Ben Lauer, tight end Brandon Lingen and linebacker Chris Wipson are four former Wayzata High School stars on the Gophers football roster, but Borchardt is recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumor. His father, Jeff Sr., said his son’s surgery went well, but there will still be some treatment necessary.

“The surgeons were able to remove 97, 98 percent of the tumor,” Jeff Sr. said. “But it was the type of tumor we’re going to have to watch and monitor.

“The good news — and it’s good news — the surgery was good news and we removed the tumor. … He’s currently on the road to recovery. He’s able to do cardio and he’s out exercising and trying to stay in shape. As soon as his six-week curfew lifts to where he can start lifting again, he’s going to start working out and get back on track.”

Jeff’s father says the plan is for the redshirt sophomore to make a healthy comeback and get back to playing with the Gophers.

Dozier on Molitor

All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier was asked if the change to Molitor as manager has been important to the Twins.

“Well you know, obviously since I’ve been here the past three years, [former manager Ron Gardenhire] has done a heck of a job,” Dozier said. “He’s one of the guys I respect very, very much in this game and I owe a lot to him as far as giving me the chance to be a big leaguer and that kind of stuff.

“As far as different managing types or whatever, they’re very similar. One thing I love about Mollie is he’s a very, very aggressive manager. He loves preaching that to us as far as attacking the zone as pitchers, taking the extra base [as baserunners], going up there [to bat] with a plan and ready to attack and that kind of stuff. He’s very aggressive and I feel like that corresponds to how I play the game. That’s one of the reasons I like him.”

Jottings

• Former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi talked about longtime track and field coach Roy Griak, who recently died at age 91. “What a figure he was,” Maturi said. “You know it’s hard to put into words, you don’t like to use superlatives because there are many great Gophers, but certainly during my time at the university, nobody meant more to the staff, to former student-athletes and represented the Gophers better than Roy Griak. And what a great individual. The only person that I saw more than you was Roy Griak, and I say that in a positive way. You and I visited almost daily, that’s certainly your reputation, and Roy was the same way. He was an individual that when I was down or another coaching colleague was not doing as well as they would like to do, Roy would be the first one in their office to give them a boost. Or if something went very well, he was the first one in the office to congratulate you.”

• Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia doesn’t believe any of the three incoming freshmen who were drafted this year will sign with their pro clubs. Three players who would have been seniors this year did sign: defensemen Brady Skjei (Rangers) and Mike Reilly (Wild) and goaltender Adam Wilcox (Lightning). “Jack Sadek [whose father was former Gophers quarterback Brett Sadek], who was drafted by the Wild, is at their camp right now. He’ll be an incoming freshman defenseman,” Lucia said. “Brent Gates Jr., his father played baseball at the U, he came in and was drafted by Anaheim and he’ll be a center for us this year. Tommy Novak, I think, was drafted by Nashville, both those kids were drafted in the third round. We had three incoming kids drafted and we have another kid that will be coming in a year from now that just finished 11th grade and was drafted as well. We were represented and I think they’re all going to be good players. We’re excited for them.”

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com