Sanó ready to put in work on body for '22

October 2nd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Perhaps has been spurred by a recognition of the fact that he's traditionally been a slow starter, or the fact that he consistently lost playing time at first base to rookie Alex Kirilloff during the summer, or the fact that free agency could loom after the 2022 season.

Whatever the reason, the slugger is feeling added urgency to report to the Twins in 2022 in a position to be healthy, play every day and drive the ball like he has for much of the second half of this season -- and as part of that, he says that he wants to lose 30 pounds before he arrives at camp next spring.

"This offseason is going to be really important for me because I'll put in more effort than I ever put in my life to my work," Sanó said.

What will that look like? Sanó didn't want to share the full details of his physical and nutritional plan, but he won't be spending too much time at home in the Dominican Republic and will instead work throughout the offseason at the Twins' Minor League facilities in Fort Myers. He'll shuttle back and forth between Florida and home in Minnesota, where his son, Dylan, has started school.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli suspects that the influence of Nelson Cruz, a primary mentor figure to Sanó, had plenty to do with this, noting Cruz's relentless offseason routine to prepare himself for each season.

"I think Miggy is going to make this the biggest priority in his life right now besides his family and I think this is the way he’s thinking about it," Baldelli said. "He’s excited about it. What I heard from him, I’m very excited about it, and now the tough part is, we go out there and have to execute it over the next few months. But he’s prepared."

It's not that Sanó's physique has been a primary concern for the Twins since he worked hard before the 2019 season and reported that spring in much-improved shape, eventually leading to a career-best year. But Baldelli also noted that the slugger's physical work will go hand-in-hand with the continued work Sanó will need to do in maintaining the shortening of his swing and opposite-field approach that has helped his performance following a slow start this year.

That start was so slow, in fact, that Kirilloff took over the primary share of the first-base platoon in late June and throughout much of July, with Sanó taking a backseat for the first time in his career.

Still, Sanó owns an .819 OPS with 28 homers since May 15, and throughout the second half, he's noted that a changed approach of focusing on center and right field, like he did when hitting well in 2017 and '19, has paid dividends. The Twins are aware that it often takes some time for Sanó to find that feel -- he started very slowly in '19, too, before exploding in the second half -- and they want to find a way to mitigate that streakiness.

They hope that this offseason-long physical work can be part of that equation, so that he can hit the ground running in Spring Training instead of spending the preseason and a chunk of the early season still finding his bearings at the plate.

"I think they go hand in hand," Baldelli said. "I think the work to be done and the maintenance to be done on his body goes along with the work that he does with the bat in his hands, and one without the other I don’t think gets us where Miguel wants to be."

Sanó's late-season performance has boosted his season numbers to 30 homers and a .771 OPS in a career-high 132 games, but it's still a far cry from the .923 OPS in 2019 or even the .859 mark in his All-Star '17 campaign.

His batted ball metrics are still elite, considering his 55.6 percent hard-hit rate ranks fifth in the Majors and his 93.4 mph average exit velocity ranks seventh among qualified hitters. The key to his success, as always, will be in putting himself in the best physical and mental state to reach that kind of contact more often -- and he wants to leave no doubt that he'll have prepared all he can to accomplish that.

"What I'll try to do next year is to come back with my mind clear, come back to play every day, come back here to try to be healthy -- not to try, but to be healthy -- and control what I can control every day," Sanó said.

"I think he’s looked around and seen what it takes for guys to prepare, take care of their bodies, their skills and I think he’s ready to take that next step in his career and that next step is going to be an offseason of work that hopefully takes him to new heights," Baldelli said.