MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman Miguel Sano has been increasing the intensity of his running drills at Target Field and was cleared to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Saturday, the club announced after Friday's 8-3 loss to the Brewers.
Sano, who has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 1 with a strained left hamstring, has been hitting, fielding and running as part of his rehab. Molitor was especially encouraged by what he saw Friday.
"I thought he looked significantly better," Molitor said. "Better effort means less pain. We're going to have to have a conversation today about whether he's ready to start a rehab. If not, it's imminent and that's encouraging. We're just going to try to figure out the plan and see how long it takes for him to show us he's ready to be an everyday player for us."
Sano, 25, was hitting .213/.289/.450 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 20 games before suffering the injury. He missed time with the same injury in 2016 and missed roughly six weeks last year after suffering a left shin stress reaction that led to offseason surgery to place a titanium rod in his shin.
"I think every team has to go through losing big bats along the way," Molitor said. "We did it last year for the last six weeks of the season. It makes a difference. It balances us out, left-right a little bit better. Another threat to hit the ball over the fence. I think everyone is aware when his at-bats are coming around."
Once Sano returns, Eduardo Escobar is expected to shift from third base to shortstop. The Twins would then have to decide whether to keep Ehire Adrianza or Gregorio Petit as a utility infielder. Both Adrianza and Petit are out of Minor League options.
May takes big step
Right-hander Trevor May, who is coming back from last March's Tommy John surgery, made his first rehab start with Triple-A Rochester on Thursday night. May went four innings, allowing one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
He threw 60 pitches and will be stretched out to throw 75 pitches on Tuesday. His fastball ranged from 88-93 mph, Molitor said. He remains eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 28.
"It's not just that he threw all his pitches," Molitor said. "It's more hearing that the shape of the pitches are what they should look like. Really, the only small negative was he had trouble sustaining velocity, which I don't think anybody was surprised by given how things were going down in Florida before he went up there. But it was a good step."
Santana nearing first start
Right-hander Ervin Santana, who is recovering from surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right middle finger in early February, threw a 50-pitch live bullpen session of three simulated innings without any issues Thursday, Molitor said.
Santana remains on track to make his first start in extended spring training on Monday. He'll throw 60 pitches in that outing and then begin his official rehab assignment with a 75-pitch start with Class A Advanced Fort Myers on May 26. He's also eligible to be reinstated from the 60-day DL on May 28.
"It was all positive," Molitor said. "Everyone tells me he's getting excited about getting in a game."