Here are some thoughts following the Twins' 6-4 loss to the White Sox
TWINS ARE IN A QUANDARY: If it was earlier in the season, Twins manager Paul Molitor probably would place both Miguel Sano and Glen Perkins on the disabled list. Sano can't run because of a strained right hamstring and Perkins can't throw a baseball because of a strained back. One player is a multi-time All-Star. The other looks like he's Cooperstown-bound through 51 games. They are both vital to the Twins' postseason hopes, althrough the role of Glen Perkins is being played by Kevin Jepsen rather well. Sano will be harder to replace. Molitor is in a tough spot because he said Perkins' injury could be something that nags him the rest of the season. If that's the case, he might have to make him a set up guy and leave Jepsen as his closer. Sano needs rest and rehab, but the Twins can't afford that because Sano has become a key cog in the lineup. Molitor has juggled bullpen roles and dealt with rotation issues all season. He's used to this. But figuring out when to play Sano and what to do with Perkins once he's ready to return will be fascinating to watch and could determine the Twins playoff fate.
DIFFERENT SITUATIONS: Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas were two reasons the Twins were optimistic entering the season. Both were productive during the second half of the 2014 season. But both lost their hitting strokes. Santana was sent to Class AAA Rochester in early June, reutrned for about a month but was sent back in late July. Vargas was sent all the way to Class AA Chattanooga in early July. Both are now back - but in specialtiy roles only. Eduardo Escobar is on a tear, as he entered Thursday batting .396 with eight doubles and four home runs over his previous 13 games. Santana hit .577 over his last six gamesa at Rochester with three home runs. But he won't be getting many starts with the Twins. His best role could be as a pinch runner late in games. ``We'll just have to see if we can mix him in there,'' Molitor said. ``Right now, I'm not going to disrupt some things that are going well as of late.'' Vargas spent 35 games at Chattanooga, batting ..287 with seven homers and 24 RBI, before moving on to Rochester, where he hit .279-6-22 in 38 games. With Miguel Sano entrenched as the designated hitter (when healthy), Vargas didn't have to wait to be told what his role would be.
``Pinch hitter,'' Vargas said. But with Sano nursing a sore hamstring, Vargas got to start at first base on Thursday as Joe Mauer moved to desginated hitter. And Santana pinch hit in the eighth and then went in to play center. The Twins haven't given up on Santana as a shortstop. I wonder if he has a better chance as an outfielder to be productive. That's a thought for another day.
THE RETURN OF AARON HICKS: This could not come at a better time for the Twins. Hicks has recovered from a left hamstring strain and will join the team in Houston. Hicks went 4-for-4 with a home run in his last game at Rochester, so he's coming in on a good roll. With Sano out, Hicks can play right field and Torii Hunter can be the DH. Before you start going off about how Torii needs to be benched, slow your roll. When everyone is healthy, I expect Hunter, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario to all get days off - and to all play together. This is Twins baseball, 2016. Molitor has had to juggle the bullpen and had to juggle the shortstop position. What roles are defined on this team? And it's likely that Sano will be hoobbled for the rest of the season, so the DH spot will be available to Hunter, to Joe Mauer, to Kennys Vargas - whomever - on the days Sano needs to sit. But getting Hicks back adds a top outfielder who is figuring things out at the plate. You people should know by game 133 that you need a pencil, not a pen, to follow this team. Listen to me now and believe me in 24 hours. Molitor will use the words, ``mix and match'' a few times during the pre-game show. That's all for now. Phil Miller is on this big trip. I'm outta here. (drops mic)