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Sanó looks sharp at first in final tuneup

@dohyoungpark
July 23, 2020

One exhibition game is far from a conclusive sample size, but it’s still easy to see a good deal of promise in Miguel Sanó’s defensive performance at first base during the Twins’ 4-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. Sanó’s physical readiness hasn’t really been the question

One exhibition game is far from a conclusive sample size, but it’s still easy to see a good deal of promise in Miguel Sanó’s defensive performance at first base during the Twins’ 4-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday.

Sanó’s physical readiness hasn’t really been the question since his late arrival in camp after quarantining due to COVID-19. Instead, the big man’s transition to his new position across the diamond and his eye at the plate are the factors that he and the Twins felt could be slower to catch up due to the abbreviated ramp-up time. One of those factors, at least, doesn’t appear to be much of an issue.

"That was a really good day for [Sanó] out in the field,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “For a lot of our guys to get out there and play nine innings or play eight innings out there was important. But for Miguel, especially so. And the work that he has put in, we got to see it tonight.”

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Though Sanó entered the game with only 31 career appearances at first base, his instincts at the position were on display in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Josh Donaldson’s throw from third base was wide of first, but Sanó came off the bag and made an athletic, spinning tag to retire Albert Almora Jr.

Another play two innings later may have put to rest any questions about Sanó’s range at first base. When David Bote hit a chopper to the right side of the infield, Sanó ranged so far to his right that he was nearly three-quarters of the way to second base by the time he scooped the grounder, planted his feet and threw to pitcher Zack Short at first base for an impressive out.

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“His ability to go and range and cut the ball off, but also the body control, setting his feet, knowing how much time he had, it was actually really fun to watch,” Baldelli said.

Later, in the bottom of the eighth, Sanó made a short-hop pick on another Donaldson throw for good measure.

Sanó had been doing agility drills in his basement while in quarantine and bouncing plastic balls off the wall to practice his fielding and receiving skills following his move across the diamond to accommodate the free-agent signing of Donaldson during the offseason. Still, that’s no substitute for making instinctive, full-speed plays in the heat of a game. He passed his first test with flying colors.

The slugger’s bat might still be lagging a little bit -- but that was something common to every member of the Bomba Squad in their first and only look at an opposing pitching staff before Opening Day.

Sanó finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk as the Twins were held to three runs on only five hits despite rolling out their modern-day Murderer’s Row of Mitch Garver, Donaldson and Nelson Cruz atop their lineup against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. It figures that the new-look lineup debuted on Wednesday featuring surprises like Jorge Polanco batting cleanup and Max Kepler hitting eighth will still do plenty of damage against southpaws throughout the season.

“I wouldn't put anything past our hitters,” Baldelli said. “We've seen them turn it on very, very quickly in the past. We had some guys last year that went out and had great years that didn't get a ton of work in Spring Training and got off to fast starts. I wouldn't want to make any kind of assumptions. In a lot of our sessions at Target Field, our guys had really good at-bats and hit some balls really hard, and that's exactly what you'd want to see.”

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.