MINNEAPOLIS -- Long maligned for his reckless approach at the plate, Twins slugger Miguel Sano put on an absolute clinic late in Saturday’s down-to-the-wire 5-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
He patiently worked a full count amid a tense battle with starter Brett Anderson, and when he finally got a pitch to hit, an 81 mph slider right down the pipe, he blasted a 444-foot bomb that landed in the upper deck.
“I’d been ready for a breaking ball because I’d been taking a lot of good pitches,” Sano said. “We got to the full count and he gave me that pitch right down the middle.”
While his patience was actually a little surprising on the surface, especially considering the strikeout problem that has plagued him since entering the big leagues, it didn’t come out of nowhere.
In fact, Sano has drastically improved his approach at the plate over the last few weeks, evidenced by the fact that he’s hitting .318/.434/.591 this month. He was rewarded for his efforts during Saturday’s game, as manager Rocco Baldelli, whose usual cleanup hitter Eddie Rosario was getting the night off, penciled Sano in as the cleanup hitter for the first time this season.
“We can be really happy with what we’ve seen from him at the plate,” Baldelli said. “He’s feeling pretty good about his at-bats as well.”
Those comments came a few hours before Sano poured in arguably his most impressive at-bat this season, and given a chance to hype him up again the following day, Baldelli doubled down on his praise for the slugger.
“He’s gone up there and dominated some at-bats,” Baldelli said. “It’s something that’s inside of the guy. It’s a difficult thing to develop in players. Some guys just have that skill, or that knack, and it’s something that he can always work off of with him.”
As for the actual swing, there have been some minor adjustments implemented by hitting coach James Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez as of late, and that has helped Sano stay on top of pitches with a little more regularity.
“He’s gotten the barrel to some balls recently that maybe he wasn’t getting to before,” Baldelli said. “That’s an impressive adjustment for any player to make. A swing path adjustment doesn’t come very easily. Most players can’t make them.
“He put his mind to it. It was something specific that he wanted to put spend some time on and it has been pretty awesome to watch because we’re watching it happen live right in front of our eyes.”
Asked about his newfound approach at the plate, Sano confidently claimed that he’s just getting started.
“I’m still working every day with my coaches,” Sano said. “I do the best I can every day to get myself ready for the game. It’s day by day. It never stops.”
Magill traded for cash
Less than a week after being designated for assignment, reliever Matt Magill was traded to the Seattle Mariners for cash considerations. He has logged 28 1/3 innings out of the bullpen this season and has a 4.45 earned-run average.
That move comes a day after fellow reliever Mike Morin was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash considerations.
Buxton getting better
Byron Buxton partook in some baseball activities prior to Sunday’s game and appears to be getting closer to returning to the lineup.
Still, the Twins are clearly being careful with Buxton, who’s dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
“I haven’t gotten an update on that yet,” Baldelli said. “He was out taking part in some baseball activity, and hopefully, it was a good day. We should know a lot more pretty soon.”