The last time Miguel Sano struggled this badly at the plate, the Twins used a hamstring injury to send him back to Fort Myers, Fla., for about six weeks of the 2018 season as part of a “holistic plan” to reboot the 2017 all-star’s game.
This time, he’s just not playing.
Willians Astudillo was penciled into Friday’s lineup against the Oakland A’s as the Twins’ first baseman, a job he seems to have wrested from Sano, at least for the time being.
Entering Friday’s game, Astudillo had hit safely in seven straight games, hitting .385 with a double, two home runs and five RBIs. Sano was hitting .111 when he was sent to St. Paul to rehab a hamstring injury on April 20. After being reinstated on May 5, he played four straight games, going 3 for 21 with no extra-base hits and 11 strikeouts.
Since then, Sano has played one of the past five games.
“We’re working with Miggy. He’s getting some of that work on the side, he’s getting some of that work pregame,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Friday. “He’s also going to be in the lineup at times for us, and we’re going to ask him to go out there and play, and succeed — you know, compete when he goes out there and takes his at-bats. This is something that’s been communicated to Miggy.”
In 2018, Sano was hitting .203 with seven home runs, 27 RBIs and 66 strikeouts in 37 games when he was sidelined by a hamstring injury on June 13. The Twins sent him to Fort Myers to rehab his leg, then had him stay to work on strengthening his core. He came back on July 28 and hit .195 with 49 strikeouts in 34 games before injuring his leg again and missing the rest of the season.
Astudillo is hitting .319 and fanned only six times in 23 games. He also has yet to draw a walk, and while he has played a creditable first base, he doesn’t have nearly the reach of the 6-foot-4 Sano, nor the raw power.
Sano is also making $11 million on a three-year contract extension that includes a club option of $14 million in 2023.
“Miggy’s a professional and he wants what’s best for the team, as well,” Baldelli said. “He would love to get all the at-bats, but Willie’s also done a really nice job for us when he’s out there and he’s competing very well, too. So, it’s a combination of probably multiple things, but Miggy will find his way back out onto the field.”
Rookie outfielder Alex Kirilloff, out since May 5 because of pain in his right wrist, was seen taking ground balls at first base before Friday’s game, a sign that a cortisone injection received May 7 is helping his rehab.
However, the pain is exacerbated by swinging, and the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft is only taking light “dry swings” — without striking a ball — and Baldelli said this week that surgery is not off the table.
“There have been people that have dealt with this injury that have come back fairly quickly. There have been people that have not,” the manager said. “And there are some people that can’t play with it. So, what we’re going to do is find out, step by step.”
Center fielder Byron Buxton, on the injured list with a right hip strain since May 7, is progressing but not expected back anytime soon.
“Until he starts running, I think we’re probably not going to have a timeline for exactly what we’re looking for,” Baldelli said. “I think as soon as he’s able to get out there and start moving around, and running at more than just a slow jog, as soon as that ramp-up can start, then we’ll know a little more.”
The Twins opened Target Field to as many as 23,000 fans, or 60 percent capacity, on Friday, potentially their largest home crowd since before MLB kept fans out of ballparks for the entire 2020 season. … Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was back in the lineup after being given Thursday off in Chicago to rest a sore left ankle.