Sano sits for second day; Molitor not worried

Third baseman battling hitting slump; given another day of rest to recharge

May 28th, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Paul Molitor called on Sunday morning before Sano even had a chance to make it to Target Field.

The phone conversation was a brief one, and Molitor told Sano he would not be in the starting lineup for the series finale against Tampa Bay. It marked the second consecutive day Molitor has elected to sit his slugging third baseman.

"He would rather play every day, he's kind of that guy," Molitor said. "But I think he sees that it's probably a good thing."

Sano, who has appeared in all but one game this year, has struggled as of late. Sano is hitless in his last 14 at-bats, including eight consecutive strikeouts.

After not starting for the first time this season, Sano got a pinch-hit at-bat in the seventh with a chance to drive in the go-ahead run on Saturday. Sano fouled off a first-pitch fastball from Danny Farquhar, and watched the second one pass for a strike. Farquhar missed with his next three heaters before getting Sano to swing through an 86-mph changeup.

Molitor admitted nothing from the at-bat warranted another day on the bench; it was more to give Sano another day of rest.

"I try to measure if one day was a good mental recharge for him," Molitor said. "He's been grinding it pretty good, all the way back to Spring Training. Just to back him off for a couple days. His swing has been off."

Strikeouts have been the one glaring hole to Sano's strong start to 2017. Despite a team-best 11 homers, Sano leads the Majors with 69 strikeouts, having registered one 37.8 percent of the time at the plate.

When he does put the ball in play, good things tend to happen. According to Statcast™, Sano boasts the highest average exit velocity (97.7 mph) in baseball. In fact, he is 3.3 mph faster than the next closest batter, which is why Molitor doesn't seem too concerned about Sano's recent slump.

"I think it was more the idea of just take the mental stress off him for a couple days, and hopefully he will come back ready to go tomorrow," Molitor said.