Miguel Sano took early batting practice Tuesday, and manager Paul Molitor heard the familiar sound of baseballs exploding off the slugger's bat.

"He looked good," Molitor admitted.

The day could be coming when Molitor can use Sano in a game. He could be available off the bench by the end of the six-game homestand.

Sano has not fully recovered from a stress reaction in his left shin, but he's progressed enough to where the Twins are now contemplating how to use him once he's cleared to play. Sano has been out since Aug. 20 after fouling a pitch off the shin.

"I'm trying to be optimistic about it," Molitor said. "I know he's excited about the potential of coming back and helping us."

Sano, who continues to wear a protective boot, was scheduled to meet with Twins physician Dr. John Steubs on Tuesday to check his progress. The Twins don't want to push Sano and would probably use him off the bench once he's available.

"I don't want to hurt the guy," Molitor said. "I want to make sure our risk is minimal about how and when we start to think about putting him in a game."

Moya joins bullpen

The Twins selected the contract of lefthander Gabriel Moya from Class AA Chattanooga, giving them another option in the bullpen.

Moya, 22, was 4-1 with a 0.82 ERA in 24 games for Class AA Jackson of the Diamondbacks chain before he was dealt to the Twins for catcher John Ryan Murphy on July 27. After the trade, Moya was 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA for Chattanooga. In 14⅔ innings, Moya walked three and struck out 19.

His fastball touches the low 90s, but he's gotten strikeouts because of a deceptive delivery. In addition to a fastball, Moya uses a slider and changeup. Molitor said he can get righthanded hitters out as well as lefties.

The Twins now have 14 relievers on the active roster, including five lefthanders.

To make room for Moya on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated infielder Engelb Vielma for release or assignment. Vielma can pick it, but batted only .206 in 87 games with Class AAA Rochester after being promoted from Chattanooga.

Molitor brought Moya in to pitch the ninth Tuesday, but wasn't sure how he was going to use him in the future.

"We've got 14 choices down there," Molitor said of the bullpen.

2018 schedule released

The Twins open the 2018 season on March 29 in Baltimore as part of a full slate of games. It will be the earliest start date in the sport's history, not including international games, and the first Opening Day since 1968 on which every team will play.

The earlier start date allows for four more off days during the regular season.

Here are a couple of interesting details about the Twins schedule:

The Twins will play Cleveland in a two-game series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 17-18 — the first time the Twins have played outside the U.S. and Canada. Twins President Dave St. Peter said the club expressed concerns to the league about the travel schedule around the series, and the league obliged. There are off days preceding and following the series, and the Twins will make a relatively short trip to Tampa Bay afterward.

Another quirk about the schedule: The Twins are on the road for all the major holidays — Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. St. Peter would have preferred something more balanced.

"That is an oddity," St. Peter said. "That's just the way it played out."


• Twins hitting coach James Rowson was scheduled to return to the Twin Cities late Tuesday after staying in Tampa with his family during Hurricane Irma.