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Inbox: Twins concerned about Sano's bat?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger fields questions from fans
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

PITTSBURGH -- After the first four games of the season, the Twins are 2-2, but they saw strong pitching performances from Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios in Baltimore before Lance Lynn was roughed up for five runs in the first inning against the Pirates on Monday.

Strikeouts have been a bit of an issue on the offensive side, but the Twins have eight homers, including three from Brian Dozier and two from Miguel Sano -- although all have been solos. And walks have been a problem on the pitching side, including issuing 11 on Monday. But it's still early and Minnesota has yet to play at home with the Target Field opener set for Thursday despite cold temperatures in the forecast. With that in mind, here's the first Inbox of the regular season.

PITTSBURGH -- After the first four games of the season, the Twins are 2-2, but they saw strong pitching performances from Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios in Baltimore before Lance Lynn was roughed up for five runs in the first inning against the Pirates on Monday.

Strikeouts have been a bit of an issue on the offensive side, but the Twins have eight homers, including three from Brian Dozier and two from Miguel Sano -- although all have been solos. And walks have been a problem on the pitching side, including issuing 11 on Monday. But it's still early and Minnesota has yet to play at home with the Target Field opener set for Thursday despite cold temperatures in the forecast. With that in mind, here's the first Inbox of the regular season.

What's the outlook on Phil Hughes? Is the club concerned about Sano's lack of consistent contact?
-- @jsjobeck 

Hughes is scheduled to start on Thursday with Class A Advanced Fort Myers and is likely to join the Twins on April 11, when they need a fifth starter, barring any weather-related schedule changes. Hughes, coming off a second surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome and currently on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, will get at least a few starts to prove he's healthy and can still be effective.

He's owed $26.4 million over the next two seasons and could be moved to long relief if he struggles as a starter. Other options to start if he's not the fifth starter include Adalberto Mejia, Tyler Duffey, Aaron Slegers, Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves.

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As for Sano, he's hit two homers, but has otherwise had trouble making contact, striking out 10 times in 17 at-bats. The Twins know strikeouts are a big part of his game, but he needs to cut down on that rate.

Sano, though, remains a candidate to break the all-time record for strikeouts in a season if he stays healthy, as the record is 223 by Mark Reynolds in 2012. Sano struck out 173 times in 114 games last year, striking out in 35.8 percent of his plate appearances, which was the sixth-highest mark in the Majors. That rate is at 55 percent through four games.

What's the liklihood of Dozier returning for the Twins in 2019?
-- @mikebrown2852

It's too early to forecast Dozier's future, as he's set to be a free agent after the season and Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said the front office doesn't want to talk extensions with players during the season. Minnesota never seriously engaged Dozier about an extension in Spring Training either.

But it doesn't mean it can't happen after the season, although it sounds like Dozier is interested in testing the waters of free agency. Dozier, though, has made it clear he's open to an extension and has stated his desire to remain with the Twins.

Video: MIN@PIT: Dozier lines a solo home run to left field

Do you see Berrios as the ace in the rotation this year?
-- @USminnesotA

Berrios looked like an ace in his first start of the season, as he commanded his fastball and changeup especially well and utilized his almost frisbee-like curveball to fool hitters. He has the best stuff of anyone on the staff and has the makings of a front-line starter. The only issue remains Berrios' size, but he's done a good job of limiting homers in the Majors and has been durable. It'll be fun to watch him this season as he continues to mature as a pitcher.

Video: MIN@BAL: Twins talk Berrios' excellence in win

How do you access Lynn's start against the Pirates on Monday?
-- @Sabir_Aden

Lynn struggled with his fastball command in Pittsburgh, but it was also just his third start against big leaguers since signing on March 12. He pitched twice on the Minor League side to get ready for the season and felt like his command will get better as the season goes along. Lynn obviously needs to cut down on the walks after tying a career high with six, but it's nothing to panic about given his strong track record.

Video: MIN@PIT: Lynn fans Bell to notch first K with Twins

Why didn't the club promote Nick Gordon to Triple-A?
-- @EllenBilek

Shortstop Gordon, the Twins' No. 4 prospect ranked by MLB Pipeline, will open the year at Double-A Chattanooga instead of Triple-A Chattanooga, but it's nothing to worry about. Minnesota likes its veteran depth in the middle infield at Triple-A Rochester and wants Gordon to continue to work on his defense at Double-A. I've been told the Twins have no problem with promoting Gordon straight from Double-A this year, so this doesn't slow his development.

Video: MIN@PIT: Gordon hits a triple to center

Will Max Kepler keep his spot in the lineup?
-- @JacobNosbush

Kepler has looked impressive at the plate so far, showing strong plate discipline and driving the ball with authority, with a homer and two doubles. His issue last season was against lefties, but he doubled on the first pitch he saw from lefty reliever Josh Smoker on Monday, which was a good sign. It's extremely early in the year and Kepler still needs to prove he can handle lefties, but he's off to a very good start.

Video: MIN@PIT: Kepler plates Escobar with a double to right

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

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