Sano, who is learning to play right field after being an infielder, went back on a ball hit by Salvador Perez and, well, didn’t exactly read the carom correctly. More puzzling and questionable: after the ball hit the wall, he didn’t chase after it — instead, slowing down while center fielder Danny Santana raced after it. By then, the slow-footed Perez had an easy triple.
Even if we give Sano the full benefit of the doubt and surmise that he had gauged Santana would get to the ball before him, the sight of a young player on an 11-33 team grinding to a halt in the midst of another blowout loss just doesn’t look good. And as a result, there was speculation that the play could land Sano on the bench.
Sal Perez got a triple, Sano may get a day off pic.twitter.com/1jlUxQARhr
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 24, 2016
Sano, though, wasn’t pulled from the game. (We’ll have to wait a few hours to see if he’s in Tuesday’s lineup). In contrast, Eddie Rosario — another second-year Twins player who was struggling — was pulled from a game last week after mental and physical errors, then subsequently sent to Class AAA Rochester after the game. The final straw was a high-risk, low-reward steal of third, of which Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “I wanted to get Eddie out at that point.”
And GM Terry Ryan said at the time, “We can’t have any comfort in that clubhouse, and I mean none.”
Molitor talked to Sano about the play between innings and offered thoughts on the Sano play after the game Monday, noting that the outfielder has been working hard on improve and that he likely assumed a teammate would get to the ball before he would. “But yeah, you want him to go for the ball even if you think someone might be there to help you out,” Molitor added. “Sometimes you get caught assuming out there and it doesn’t look too good.”
Is that a double-standard? And if so — a more delicate question — is that necessarily a bad thing?
To the first question, I would say in just a simple one-to-one comparison with Rosario it appears that way. But it’s also worth noting that Rosario’s benching and demotion came at the end of a series of blunders and also had to do with his lack of discipline at the plate. He might have been pulled for having a series of misplays in one bad game, but that was far from the sole reason why he was demoted.
Sano, in contrast, has an .818 OPS in his last 32 games after a dreadful first 11. Even if he’s not hitting at the same pace he did as a rookie, he’s contributing to a lineup that needs every run it can muster even while he struggles in the field.
In the bigger picture, while both Sano and Rosario had breakout rookie years in their own ways, Sano is a potential future star while Rosario’s ceiling is probably lower as a potential solid contributor. While it’s fair to ask whether he’s earned special treatment and/or whether Sano is too comfortable — a reference back to that Ryan quote — it’s also a fact that stars, like it or not, are often treated differently.
Our own Patrick Reusse was dismayed enough by the Sano play to suggest he be sent all the way back to Class AA. That would be a loud message but an unlikely one. The Twins have already dispatched Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jose Berrios back to the minors. Sano is the most accomplished of the bunch and the one who has at least shown some signs of life this year.
When you can hit like he can, you tend to get the benefit of the doubt and a little more comfort. We’ll see how much — and how much is needed — going forward.