SEATTLE – When the Twins were in Baltimore last month, Manny Machado presented Miguel Sano with an autographed Dominican Republic jersey from the World Baseball Classic, with the assurance that they'll be teammates at the next WBC.
But first, Sano is competing with Machado to make another star-studded team.
Sano has pulled ahead of Cleveland's Jose Ramirez, another Dominican, by 97,912 votes, and Machado by 118,836, in the fan voting for the starting spot at third base for the American League in next month's All-Star Game in Miami. Sano's total of 638,952 votes, as tallied by Major League Baseball, carried him past Ramirez, whom he trailed by more than 5,000 in the last updated totals.
"Not everybody can be an All-Star," Sano said. "It's pretty good. I appreciate the moment, the opportunity."
He hopes it lasts longer than a moment, but voting continues until June 29 for the July 11 game. Sano said he wouldn't vote for himself, likely a reflection having to compete with his countrymen. But he hopes fans do.
"I'm just trying to be a leader for the team, maybe that's what the fans see, that I'm being a leader and that I'm contributing to this team," said Sano, whose 14 home runs trail AL leader Aaron Judge by four. "Hopefully that's something that keeps happening, and the fans keep voting for me. I want to thank the fans for voting for me."
His manager, though, is a little leery of the honor. Sano is off to a great start, and Paul Molitor doesn't want his focus to waver.
"It's still early. These things change, and if you get consumed by them, it starts affecting what you're thinking about on the field," said Molitor, himself a seven-time All-Star. "It just can be a distraction, especially when you're trying to make your first one."
Molitor conceded, though, that Sano seems less prone to losing his focus than he did two years ago.
"I think he's got a lot of people trying to influence him, maybe away from this clubhouse, [telling him] what he needs to do to make All-Star teams and win home run championships and get a long-term contract," the manager said. "He's starting to understand, and have a little bit more mature approach. He's been a big factor in us having a good 50 games. If he keeps that up, he's going to receive a lot of dividends in a lot of different ways."
Still, Sano enjoys being a big part of the show. On Tuesday, fans cheered as he finished his round of batting practice, having rocketed several homers into the upper deck in left field.
"When you start trying to hit home runs to get to an All-Star Game, it usually isn't going to take you very far," Molitor warned. "You have to try to play your game and help your team win."
That's what he's trying to do, Sano agreed. But no harm in admitting that he'd like to be honored with a midseason trip to Miami. Oh, and before anyone asks:
"I'd like to be in the home run derby," he said.
Polanco on bereavement leave
Jorge Polanco left Safeco Field shortly before batting practice, headed to the airport and a 12-hour flight home to the Dominican Republic.
Polanco's grandfather, Maximo Polanco, died Tuesday. Polanco will be placed on the bereavement list and "he's going to take the time he needs," Molitor said. "I told him not to put a deadline on the return."
Polanco was raised for a time by his grandparents, and was particularly close to his grandfather.
"He loves his grandfather," Sano said after talking to his teammate. "It's very hard for him."
Said Molitor, "I understand his relationship was parental in some ways. It's been weighing on him the last week or so. We just told him to go take care of himself and his family."
The Twins called up Kennys Vargas from Class AAA Rochester.
Kyle Gibson will start Thursday against Seattle, and Ervin Santana will pitch Friday in San Francisco, Molitor said, a reversal of the plan he had contemplated before arriving in Seattle.
"We were trying to decide about taking advantage of the extra days when you can get them, because it's a long season," Molitor said, and his team is in the midst of a 45-games-in-45-days stretch. With an off day Monday, he decided not to keep Santana on a five-day schedule.
"We're going to have to grind away here with a lot of games coming up," he said, "so an extra day is good."