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Sano working to raise his game, hits off tee

Twins slugger motivated to become one of MLB's best 3B
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- One day after making arguably his best defensive play of the season, Miguel Sano found himself putting in the early offensive work at Target Field.

Sano was the first Twins hitter in the batting cage prior to Wednesday's game against the Indians. He began to hit off the tee, as hitting coach James Rowson watched closely from behind home plate. Sano scorched baseball after baseball into the right-center gap, before he began depositing them over the left-field wall.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- One day after making arguably his best defensive play of the season, Miguel Sano found himself putting in the early offensive work at Target Field.

Sano was the first Twins hitter in the batting cage prior to Wednesday's game against the Indians. He began to hit off the tee, as hitting coach James Rowson watched closely from behind home plate. Sano scorched baseball after baseball into the right-center gap, before he began depositing them over the left-field wall.

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For Sano, it was just the latest example of the work ethic he has maintained through the highs and lows of his All-Star season. Sano's defensive gem at third base on Tuesday night, which involved a season-long 149-foot throw across the diamond, according to Statcast™, was made possible by practicing that same play on a daily basis.

"I told you all, I'm working really hard every day," Sano said. "I want to do something different and that can help the team win."

Sano has paced the offense for much of the year, but entered Wednesday in a bit of a slump. Sano leads the team with 26 home runs, but he had clubbed just two homers in 48 previous at-bats this month. Which is why Sano felt it was necessary to put in the early work on the field, in hopes to getting back to doing what he does best.

"I work every day, but today I went out to the field and hit off the tee," Sano said. "I hit a couple balls out to the field. I try to go back and hit some bombs and do my job, and be ready to play."

Sano, who has been hit on the hand twice since the All-Star break, said it's easier to pull his hand inside more when hitting off the tee. As a result, he is able to get more out of his swing, which may be part of the problem.

According to Statcast™, Sano's average exit velocity (92.7 mph) is the fourth-best mark in the Majors. That has decreased throughout the season, however, after he leaped out to enormous advantage in that particular category in the first two months of the season. In August, Sano's exit velocity on batted balls is a mere 86.9 mph.

Video: Must C Combo: Sano, Buxton make spectacular plays

But if his previous work ethic is any indication, Sano's work off the tee could pay dividends in the near future. After all, his defensive prowess the night before earned some lofty praise.

"My family called me and said, 'Wow that's a great play. Keep going, I know you can be one of the best third basemen,'" Sano said.

Worth noting
Twins manager Paul Molitor said MRI results revealed that left-hander Hector Santiago has inflammation in the cervical area. Molitor said Santiago will receive an injection in an attempt to get to the source of the discomfort. If all goes well, Santiago could potentially resume throwing within the next five days.

"Depending on how he responds to this, and if we hit the spot and it indeed is connected to some of the issues we've been facing, he'll be throwing the baseball here sooner than later," Molitor said.

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis and covered the Twins on Wednesday.

Minnesota Twins, Miguel Sano