Sano enjoys Major taste of winning most of all
KANSAS CITY -- Before Thursday night's game, Miguel Sano was asked repeatedly what his goal was for his Major League debut.
His answer never really varied by more than a few words. "Try to get a win tonight," Sano said.
Mission accomplished. Sano went 1-for-4, getting his first Major League hit that factored in one of two runs as the second-place Twins earned a 2-0 win over the first-place Royals behind a very strong start from Kyle Gibson.
"I'm so happy, not for my single, but for the team win tonight," Sano said. "That's my goal; try to win a lot of games this year."
Sano just turned 22 in May, but clearly, he has his priorities in place. Like many of his young countrymen from the Dominican Republic, he is more mature in the game than his age would indicate.
The Twins brought Sano up from Double-A to provide additional power. There is no doubt he has power potential. Coming into 2015, MLB.com ranked him as the 11th best prospect overall and he's since moved up two spots on the list. And that was after he had missed the '14 season with Tommy John surgery. In '13, Sano hit 35 home runs between two levels of the Minor Leagues.
So there was considerable excitement about Sano's arrival. The Twins had brought up No. 1 prospect Byron Buxton last month. He had played in just 11 games before going to the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Now it was Sano's turn. The Twins were excited.
"We're looking for a little pick-me-up, we've tried some different things to get us started and you hope he's that guy," manager Paul Molitor said. "He's going to add a presence to that lineup. It's kind of fun to put his name down and see how it works out."
Sano was excited, too.
"This is a good moment," he said before the game. "This is the one opportunity I wanted my whole life. I'm going to try to be here my whole career, never be sent down."
In his first Major League at-bat, leading off in the second inning against Royals starter Chris Young, Sano hit a line-drive shot to center, but it was caught.
"The ball I hit to center was a slider," he said. "They threw me a first-pitch fastball away and the next pitch was a slider."
In the fourth, with two out and a runner on second, Sano struck out on a nasty changeup from Young. In the sixth, with a runner on third and two out, Sano struck out on a good slider from lefty reliever Franklin Morales. In the ninth, facing Royals closer Greg Holland with one out and none on, Sano beat out a dribbler toward third for his first Major League hit.
The Twins then sent in the speedier Shane Robinson to pinch-run. He scored ahead of Eduardo Escobar's triple. But the thing about this sequence was that on the dribbler, Sano moved down the line reasonably well, particularly considering that he is listed at 6-foot-4, 262 pounds.
"He's more athletic than you might think by looking at the immenseness of the man," Molitor said.
"I'm not that fast, though," Sano said. "I'm a little fast."
Sano has been playing third base in the Minors, but he will primarily be the designated hitter for the Twins. Molitor said they may give Sano pregame work at first base and even in the outfield to see where he can acclimate himself.
Sano will not be short on sage advice. There is Torii Hunter, right fielder and role model, always available for direction. And Molitor has already checked in with some counsel on how a player can conduct himself when he comes to the Major Leagues, with plenty of hype coming with him.
"I think you try to be as transparent with the player as you can be about those things," Molitor said. "In talking to him today, I tried to give him an idea of what his role might be and what we wanted him to do in his pregame work. But more than anything, same thing with Byron [Buxton], you know you work hard to get here, but in a lot of ways, your work just begins.
"You can't get comfortable until the last day you play this game, that's the day you can kind of enjoy the ride that you were able to go through. So, he's where he wants to be, but now is when you put your foot on the pedal and go even harder. I think he gets it. He's seen guys make it here, then bounce back and forth. Maybe he'll be one of those guys, maybe not. We'll just have to see how he responds."
The first response by Miguel Sano was encouraging.