Sano switching to right field, with Torii's help

Young Twins slugger excited to learn new position, play every day

January 30th, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS -- Much has been made about Miguel Sano's impending move to right field after the Twins decided to hold onto third baseman Trevor Plouffe and sign Byung Ho Park to be a designated hitter this offseason, but the young slugger doesn't see it as a big deal.

Sano, a natural third baseman who served mostly as Minnesota's designated hitter last year after being called up on July 2, joked that he'd even catch if it meant being in the lineup every day.

"I'm really happy about the chance that [manager] Paul Molitor and [general manager] Terry Ryan are giving me to be in the lineup," Sano said Saturday at TwinsFest. "So if I need to play catcher, first base, whatever, I'll play it to be in the lineup. I think being in the field makes me a better hitter."

Sano, 22, is taking it seriously, as he's been working on his outfield defense in his native Dominican Republic and even cut his time in winter ball short so he could focus on conditioning and getting outfield reps. The 6-foot-4 slugger said he's at about 263 pounds, but doesn't want to lose much more weight because he doesn't want to lose any of his power.

The biggest key for Sano is buying into the idea of playing in the outfield, and Ryan said he doesn't believe that's an issue.

"He's bought in," Ryan said. "But we've certainly asked that question. You have to be on board with it and he's on board. I think you've heard him say he'll play anywhere."

The Twins certainly need Sano in their lineup, as he was their best hitter last year, batting .269/.385/.530 with 18 homers, 17 doubles and 52 RBIs in 80 games en route to finishing third in the balloting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

So to help with the transition, Sano will hear from a familiar voice this spring, as Torii Hunter is set to be a special instructor and will work with Sano on his outfield defense. Hunter believes Sano is much more athletic than people realize, but said it's a tough transition.

"I'm going to spend a lot of time working with him, but he's very athletic for a big-framed guy," Hunter said. "To go to right field it's easier for him with the high wall. He can just play it off the wall because in left field, you need someone more athletic to jump up to rob home runs. I definitely think he has a good chance to cover some ground. But it's his first year in the outfield, so give him some grace and don't boo him too much because he'll have some tough times. But he's athletic enough to hold it down and be solid."

But Sano, who dealt with a hamstring issue late last season, isn't lacking in confidence, as he's already set lofty goals for the season.

"My first goal is be healthy and be with the team the whole year, but I want to make the playoffs," Sano said. "I think we have a good chance. But I'd also like to be in the All-Star Game, hit .300 and hit a couple home runs. But for me, the best would be to win the World Series."