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Sano, Polanco displaying defensive prowess

Molitor impressed with infielders' athleticism, range
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2017 season for the Twins was how third baseman Miguel Sano and shortstop Jorge Polanco would fare defensively.

Sano was making the move back to third base full time after last year's failed experiment in right field, while Polanco played almost exclusively at second base at Triple-A Rochester in 2016 before playing shortstop for the Twins down the stretch. But both have been pleasant surprises, leading to an overall solid defense for Minnesota, which has helped the pitching staff.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2017 season for the Twins was how third baseman Miguel Sano and shortstop Jorge Polanco would fare defensively.

Sano was making the move back to third base full time after last year's failed experiment in right field, while Polanco played almost exclusively at second base at Triple-A Rochester in 2016 before playing shortstop for the Twins down the stretch. But both have been pleasant surprises, leading to an overall solid defense for Minnesota, which has helped the pitching staff.

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It's helped the Twins post the highest rate in the Majors of turning batted balls into outs -- 75.6 percent -- after finishing last in that statistic in 2016, according to Fangraphs.com.

"I've been pleased," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "There haven't been many mistakes. Polanco has done a really nice job at improving his athleticism to make athletic plays, like improving on the run on plays to the five-hole. He's not overthinking those plays and making nice spin plays over the middle. Miggy is moving around really good. He looks engaged and has simplified his ready position, which has helped him with the range. We all know he has body control."

As Molitor noted, mistakes haven't been the issue, as Polanco has one error and Sano has two, with both coming in the same game against the White Sox on April 8. But the advanced metrics paint an even more encouraging picture, especially for Polanco, who is tied for first among shortstops with three Defensive Runs Saved.

Video: CLE@MIN: Polanco makes sliding grab, gets the out

It's a big improvement on 2016, when Polanco had minus-8 DRS in 47 games at short. Molitor credited third-base coach Gene Glynn with working with Polanco on his defense in Spring Training, especially after he started Grapefruit League play with several errors.

"I think he was trying to do everything right mechanically and was thinking about it like a hitter who maybe overthinks things from time to time," Molitor said. "Geno did a lot of good work with him, with repetition to free up his mind to make plays he's always done and not be concerned about the plays he doesn't make. He's been playing the position fairly free of any external pressures."

Sano, meanwhile, has been credited with 0 DRS, but it's better than his minus-2 mark in 42 games at third in 2016. But he's been particularly adept at getting to slow rollers at third, including two impressive plays against the Tigers in Friday's 6-3 win.

Molitor said he believes Sano is getting better reads off the bat, and he isn't wasting unnecessary movements when contact is made.

"He used to take multiple steps and try to hop into it," Molitor said. "It was about simplifying things and being where he wanted to be. It's like returning serve at third base. If you're off a little bit or a little late, it'll affect your reaction off the ball."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Minnesota Twins, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano