Miguel Sano had only one highlight in the first week of the Twins’ season, a double down the left-field line Tuesday.
The rest has been a struggle.
The Twins first baseman was 0-for-3 on Thursday with two strikeouts and a popup against Cleveland righthander Shane Bieber, but his other at-bats haven’t been much better. In addition to failing to square up baseballs, he’s been beaten by fastballs 94 miles per hour and above.
That double against St. Louis is his only hit, as Sano is 1-for-17 with no walks and is tied for the team lead with eight strikeouts.
Some players get off to slower starts than others, but Sano also missed the opening part of summer camp while he recovered from COVID-19, and his timing looks off.
That’s not dust flying around the batter’s box when he swings. It’s rust.
Sano was not in the lineup for Friday’s 4-1 victory over Cleveland.
“I think normally we have six, seven weeks to get ready for a season after a long offseason of working out and being in great shape,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He did a good job of dealing with this quarantine period that he was in. And let’s not forget he’s dealt with COVID itself.
“You add all that together and it’s not totally surprising that he may not start out amped up, ready to go and at 100 percent. But physically he is in good shape. He’s fine and I think some of the stuff going on the field is probably just rust in one way or the other in getting back out there.”
Marwin Gonzalez started at first base for Sano, who wasn’t the only struggling regular out of the lineup Friday. Catcher Mitch Garver, who was 2-for-13 with eight strikeouts, also took a seat as Alex Avila started behind the plate. Jake Cave started in center in place of Byron Buxton, but the move was part of Buxton’s maintenance coming off a foot injury, and Buxton did come in for defense late.
“I think he came out of Game 2 feeling a lot better than he did Game 1, which is a great sign,” Baldelli said of Buxton.
Josh Donaldson left Friday’s game early because of a tight right calf, and the team said the $93 million third baseman is day-to-day.
Donaldson, who has had calf trouble in the past, singled and scored on Eddie Rosario’s first-inning double, and he didn’t appear to labor as he ran the bases. He then made two clean fielding plays in the top of the second. But when it was his turn to hit in the bottom of the inning, Ehire Adrianza stepped in as a pinch hitter.
CHS Field gets busy
The St. Paul Saints have been given the go-ahead to return to town and play at CHS Field starting Tuesday, which means the facility will have two tenants.
In addition to the Saints playing their games there, the ballpark will continue to be the home for the extra Twins players who make up the remainder of the 60-man roster the club had to submit to the league. The group includes top prospects such as Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, Jhoan Duran and Ryan Jeffers. It also includes Willians Astudillo, who has recovered from COVID-19 and started working out this week.
The group will likely work out around the Saints schedule, which means hitting the field in the mornings and midday before the Saints play evening games. The arrangement has worked well for the Twins.
“Right now, I don’t think it’s going to affect us very much,” Baldelli said. “We’ve been on a schedule over there the entire time. We have a certain amount of time we go over there and get our work done.
“Our guys live, for the most part, I think all or almost all live just right nearby at the hotel. They hoof it back and forth every day. It’s been a very, very good relationship and setup for us.”