HOUSTON – It’s not always easy to watch Miguel Sano lope slowly to first base on a ground ball, Paul Molitor said Saturday, but it beats not watching him hit at all.
“His is an extreme case right now,” Molitor said of his rookie slugger, who has been playing despite a sore right hamstring for more than a week. “I don’t think we’ve seen many guys run out double play ball at eight seconds, but that’s what you’re going to get. If he hits a ball that’s an out 99 percent of the time, he’s going to shut it down, and that’s OK. I’m hoping he gets gradually better.”
He is. Sano jogged in the outfield before batting practice Saturday and said his hamstring “is a little better. [But] I can’t go full out yet.”
He probably won’t for a while; doctors have said keeping Sano in the lineup will slow his progress. But “we had a couple different people look at the MRIs, and generally people think we’re at a very minimal risk of doing something substantial here [to make it worse], as long as he plays intelligently,” Molitor said. “We’ve seen [Detroit’s] Miguel Cabrera for a few years have to limp around the field. It was somewhat painful to watch.”
Sano is running so gingerly, Molitor said, that “I worry a little bit about a base hit to right field, and trying to throw him out at first. If he’s up there with a man on second base, I wonder if he’s going to be able to get down there to beat a throw,” potentially costing the Twins a run.
No more Ripkens
Brian Dozier played his 20th consecutive game on Saturday, which stands as the Twins’ longest current playing streak. On the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,130th game, tying Lou Gehrig for the longest run ever, Molitor said he doubts such a streak could ever happen in the modern game.
“It would be a rare case when you would consider running someone out there every day in today’s game. To me, if you play 155 games, you’ve had a heck of a year,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if there’s a lot of extra value by playing every game.”
Shortstop Eduardo Escobar said it’s possible to play a full 162-game season, but “it would be hard. Oh my gosh, no days off? You could do it, but you would be tired.” Still, he added, “the more baseball, the better. If I got a chance, I would. Tell Mollie.”
Justin Morneau is the only Twins player in the past three decades to play every game in a season — he played all 163, in fact, in 2008, as part of his franchise-record 319-game playing streak.
Ripken’s streak eventually reached 2,632 games, or more than 17 seasons.
“It’s still unfathomable. For a guy who had trouble staying on the field, like myself for a lot of my career, it added a lot of respect for what he was able to do,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever see anybody ever come close to that again.”
• Batting practice was canceled for Sunday due to a pregame parade of costumed characters as part of Star Wars Day. The Twins don’t normally take BP on Sundays anyway.
• Tyler Duffey slept in his boyhood bedroom Friday night — his baseball trophies “are all still there,” he confirmed — as he prepares for his homecoming start Sunday in the city where he starred in high school and college.
Duffey, who has pitched in Minute Maid Park four or five times before, once before a crowd of around 10,000, provided tickets for more than 30 family members and friends, including his 93-year-old grandmother, Jean Duffey.
“I’m the best pitcher there is on the planet to her,” Duffey said.