"Hey, I'm going to play first base tomorrow," Cruz's voice said on the other side of the line.
"Really?" Sanó replied incredulously.
Of course Cruz would immediately call Sanó to share the news of the 41-year-old's first career appearance at first base, considering the long hours they spent together at the position in Spring Training workouts at Tom Kelly Field and pregame sessions at Target Field.
And though Sanó was in a different city for Cruz's defensive adventure, he was still with his old mentor in a way, as Cruz played seven innings of first base at Citizens Bank Park using the first-base glove that Sanó gave him as a gift in 2019.
"The first year, [in 2019], I made one for him and one for me," Sanó said. "The one I use here and the one that he has."
According to Sanó, he had two gloves made that year -- one to use with Minnesota's more subdued road jersey colors, and one to match the brighter home jerseys. When the Twins signed Cruz in free agency and the pair of Dominican sluggers immediately forged a tight bond, Sanó gave one of those gloves to Cruz. Two of Sanó's kids' names are stitched into the leather -- and when his third, a daughter named Danea, was born, Cruz was named the girl's godfather.
And after Cruz used that mitt to pick a bouncing throw on a sweet play by shortstop Wander Franco, he made sure to call Sanó to tell him -- and to thank him.
"He called me and said, 'Hey, I made a play,'" Sanó said. "He said that I taught him to make that play."
Cruz was often the mentor in the relationship, as Sanó learned to play first base before the 2020 season. Sanó described how Cruz compiled video clips of Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and others to help Sanó learn the nuances of the position. And in all those practice sessions together, Sanó insists that he taught Cruz how to pick throws in the dirt, considering it's something for which Sanó has a natural affinity.
"We make a good team together," Sanó said.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who steadfastly avoided playing Cruz in the field during his two-plus seasons in Minnesota, also got word of Cruz's long-awaited defensive opportunity through the grapevine. Baldelli noted that part of that hesitancy also stemmed from Cruz himself while he was with the Twins -- though the skipper is still thrilled to see his former designated hitter's dream come true.
"I think for a while, he was a little worried about actually taking it out into the game," Baldelli said. "He did it more as a workout and a way to stay involved. There’s a lot of aspects of first base that Nellie can handle perfectly fine. For us, we wanted to make sure he was out there for the five at-bats a day in the DH slot, and not do anything to really risk that in any way.
"But I’m sure he’s going to be OK, and they need him right now out there, so I don’t blame them."
Maeda decision could come soon
Will Kenta Maeda require surgery to address the currently unspecified issues in his pitching arm? The Twins could learn the right-hander's fate as soon as Friday.
Maeda received a second opinion on Thursday in Dallas with Dr. Keith Meister, an orthopedic surgeon, and addressed the situation further with Dr. Christopher Camp, the Twins' team physician. Following those conversations, Baldelli said "more than one" procedure remained on the table as potential options for Maeda, along with the possibility of no surgery for an injury that is described for now as "right forearm tightness," though he has been pitching through arm issues throughout the season.
Once the club returns to Minneapolis following Thursday's series finale in Boston, Twins leadership will sit down with Maeda, talk through their options, and give the 33-year-old some time to make a decision.
"What he thinks about his career and which direction we’re going to take is very important, and doing it the minute he leaves the doctor’s office is not probably the best way to do it," Baldelli said. "So we’re going to let him spend a little time, think about what he’s learned, decide what the next step is going to be."
There's no guarantee that Maeda will make a final call on Friday, considering there's also the possibility that he could seek an extra opinion with his doctor in Tokyo, Baldelli said. But if Maeda is ready to make a decision by then, the Twins will be listening.
• Following a day off on Thursday, Byron Buxton will work out with the Twins before Friday's series opener against Milwaukee at Target Field, and the coaching staff will evaluate his readiness for a possible return in the coming days. Baldelli said the Twins had not determined if Buxton's activation from the 10-day IL would come on Friday, and it could depend on their evaluation of his workout and batting practice.
• Athletic trainer Masa Abe was cleared to return to the Twins on Thursday after missing time due to COVID-19. Two other trainers, Matt Biancuzzo and Adam Diamond, remain away from the club, along with first-base coach Tommy Watkins due to COVID-19 issues. Hitting coach Edgar Varela returned to the team on Tuesday following his recovery from the virus. All have consented to their conditions being made public.