BALTIMORE – Miguel Sano wore a wool stocking cap Sunday as he took batting practice in blustery, 45-degree weather at Camden Yards. Specially insulated batting gloves were on his hand, and he wore a sweatshirt instead of a jersey.
“The cold, it’s bad for baseball,” the Twins right fielder said on the eve of his first major league Opening Day. “It’s a little more difficult in the cold weather, but it doesn’t change my swing.”
No, the baseballs that clanged off left field seats proved that. But Sano, like several of his young teammates, has little experience playing in conditions like he figures to face this month here, at Kansas City and especially at Target Field.
“I played in Beloit. It was too cold for a month and a half,” Sano said of starting the 2012 season in southern Wisconsin. “I do the same job, same work, same drills. Then you sit by heaters in the dugout, and you go inside and run between innings.”
For Byron Buxton, being on a big-league roster on Opening Day means a lot more to him than the weather he’ll experience. And it can’t be as bad as it was in 2013, when he played for Cedar Rapids, right?
“We went on the road to [Appleton] Wisconsin, and played one game out of a four-game series because it snowed every day,” said Buxton, a Georgia native. “It stayed that way for a month.”
But Buxton focused on getting used to cold weather, because he knew it was in his future. “Every time I go to a cold place, that’s what I think about — Minnesota’s going to be at least this cold, so I might as well get used to it now,” he said. “I learned to stay occupied. You’ll never see me stop walking back and forth. I never stay still, because if you stand in one place, you just go, ‘Jeez, it’s so cold.’ But once you get moving, you tolerate it better.”
Yeah, Buxton and Sano seemed to tolerate the weather all right. Sano’s April in Beloit? He batted .276 with six homers and a 1.008 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. And Buxton’s snowy debut month in Cedar Rapids? A .392 batting average, a .510 on-base percentage, a 1.194 OPS, nine stolen bases and 12 extra-base hits.
Park credits teammates
While the Orioles wrestled with whether to keep their South Korean import, outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, on their roster while he adjusts to American baseball (they did), the Twins’ Korean — Byung Ho Park — already feels as if he belongs. That’s partly due to his success at the plate this spring — but also to his teammates.
“Of course I was a little nervous about how I would be treated in the clubhouse. but since the first day, everybody, even the big names [like] Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, [Trevor] Plouffe, [Brian] Dozier, [Phil] Hughes, they all came up to me to be friendly. They throw jokes at me,” Park said. “It helped me be a part of the players. I’m really happy to be on the Twins. I feel like part of the team now.”
The Twins broke camp with plenty of optimism last season — then lost six of their first seven games. “It was a shock,” manager Paul Molitor said.
That’s why they’re trying to contain themselves over the 2016 season — even though they feel that they are being underrated by most preseason forecasts.
“I’m sure there are a lot of reasons people don’t think we can hang in and do more than we did last year,” Molitor said. “But that’s fine.”
General Manager Terry Ryan’s feedback mostly comes from scouts, he said, and they are mostly positive. “I’ve had a couple [scouts] say, ‘You guys don’t look too bad.’ That’s a pretty high compliment from those guys.”