It was billed as a showcase for two of the American League’s most plausible Rookie of the Year candidates. It turned into a night of rest and recuperation.
Sore hamstrings sidelined both Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and Twins slugger Miguel Sano on Friday, though both hope to play later in the series.
Correa’s condition wasn’t a surprise; he missed Wednesday’s game against the Yankees in New York because of soreness in his left hamstring. But Sano had started the Twins’ previous 34 games, and he was in Paul Molitor’s original lineup Friday, playing third base.
That is, until he informed the manager of the increasing soreness in his right leg, a condition that got worse on the artificial turf in St. Petersburg, Fla., this week.
“He came in and talk a little bit about his concerns, what he could do and couldn’t do,” Molitor said. “He’s a guy who wants to play, thinks he could play through it, at least in the DH role.”
Molitor, however, quickly vetoed that idea. There are 34 games remaining in the Twins’ season, and he wants Sano, who hit five home runs on the 10-game road trip, in the middle of the order in most of them.
“I don’t want to risk a longer-term setback for him,” Molitor said. “He’s got the right attitude about injuries and trying to play. Sometimes you’ve got to protect the player.”
Sano was available to pinch hit on Friday, and Molitor said the Dominican slugger had responded well to his treatment, so he could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday. But for one day at least, the Twins were missing Sano’s power-hitting presence in the middle of their lineup.
“We all know what he’s done and what he’s meant to the team,” Molitor said. “It’s a different feel, because that’s the kind of presence he’s brought in here.”
It’s only August, but this weekend’s three games with the AL West-leading Astros feels like a big series, the Twins say.
“We know where they are in the standings,” Torii Hunter said. “You try to win every game, but beating the teams in first helps you see that we can compete at that level, too. After what happened in New York, we can use a little reminder.”
Molitor said he enjoys the underdog-having-their-day aspect of the series, since both teams won only 70 games last season yet are in playoff contention with a month to play.
“Speaking outside my role as manager, I like seeing those kind of stories for the game,” he said. “We all know there are certain franchises that have a little more history of being in contention, and kudos to them. But when you get some clubs that have rebounded from some difficult seasons and are still being talked about as potential playoff teams, I like those stories. And I’m glad that we’re one of them.”
• Aaron Hicks’ hamstring strain has healed enough to allow him to play again, so he will be assigned, perhaps as soon as Saturday, to Class AAA Rochester to begin a rehab stint. Hicks was injured while running the bases Aug. 19 in New York, so he is eligible to return Friday.
• Phil Hughes played catch on flat ground and is making progress in his return from back stiffness that flared up two weeks ago. But that progress is slow, Molitor said: “He’s still a long way from getting on a mound and being ready to compete in a game.”
• For the second time in four days, the opposing catcher was hurt running the bases. Houston’s Jason Castro left after straining his right quadriceps on a fifth-inning double. Tampa Bay’s Curt Casali landed on the disabled list after injuring a hamstring on a home run Tuesday.