Tuesday, May. 21, 2019


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Twins’ Sano Seems a Trade Prospect

 

Enigmatic Miguel Sano is back in a Twins uniform after missing the first 41 games of the season with a right heel laceration, and it’s worth speculating whether he will finish the year with the organization.

Before being recalled yesterday, Sano had played in 10 games on his rehab assignment. The goal had been 20 games but an injury to catcher Mitch Garver forced an early recall of Sano, who with Single-A Ft. Myers, Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Rochester, hit .316. He had two home runs and nine RBI.

The Twins lead the AL Central Division with one of the best records in baseball, 27-15. In the first quarter of the season the club has excelled in various ways including hitting home runs, a Sano specialty. Minnesota is on pace to break the club record for homers in a season, 225.

Sano has teased both the fans and the front office with his power and potential since signing with the team for a reported $3.15 million bonus as a 16-year-old in 2009 while living in his native Dominican Republic. However, in four seasons with the Twins the 6-foot-4, 270-pound third baseman has struggled with his weight, injuries and consistency. In 2017 he made the AL All-Star team and hit a career high 28 home runs, despite only playing in 114 games.

The Twins have thrived this spring without Sano, who fell back in his production last year hitting just .199 with 13 home runs in 71 games. When multi-positional newcomer Marwin Gonzalez plays at third he gives the Twins a better fielder than Sano, and since May 2 he is hitting .372.

It’s conceivable that because of new found success without him, Sano might not become a full time starter and centerpiece with the Twins like in the past. He seems likely—at least initially—to be in and out of the lineup while playing third base, first base and filling in at Designated Hitter.

During an interview yesterday, Twins GM Thad Levine wouldn’t single out Sano as someone the club is targeting for high expectations this season. Rather, he said it’s a “big season” for a core of younger players who have been around for awhile, including Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Garver and Sano. “I think we feel like his (Sano’s) future bears a lot of promise,” Levine said.

Sano’s achievements and perceived potential should have value on the trade market if the Twins want to part with him. “I think it’s our responsibility to at least listen, but right now we’re not in a position where we’re looking to trade Miguel Sano,” Levine said.

Levine didn’t label any players in the organization as untouchable regarding trades, but he said there are individuals the Twins “would never make a call to another team” about, and bring up their names. He didn’t say who the players are, and whether Sano is included in the group.

Sano is 26 and in the last year of his contract. The Twins could look at Sano as having too much potential to cast away, or they might have seen enough during his spotty career to take the gamble of sending him to another organization either for immediate help or prospects.

In addition to Gonzalez, the Twins can play Ehire Adrianza and Willians Astudillo at third base. With Polanco playing at an All-Star level at shortstop, the Twins might be looking to eventually move top minor league prospect Royce Lewis from short to third base. It seems Minnesota has quality options at third base if the club chooses to move on from Sano.

Levine is impressed with the total performance of the team so far— offense, defense, starting pitching and relief pitching. “There is no glaring need as we see it but I think we’re going to continue to monitor the markets and evaluate the team,” he said.

Falvey & Levine

Levine sees it as his responsibility and that of chief baseball officer Derek Falvey to both recognize the “window” the Twins have this season to be a contender for a division title, while also continuing to strategize the building of the club for the future. Player acquisitions in coming weeks could fit into either of those goals.

Despite the club’s impressive start, Levine recognizes there are a lot of games ahead on the 162-game schedule. “…You kind of use April and May to assess your team, and then the remaining months to make the adjustments you feel necessary to improve it,” he said. “I would say we’re still very much in the assessment stage of the season.”

Worth Noting

The 2019 Twins’ roster is probably the most versatile in franchise history with so many players able to perform at multiple positions. Monday night against the Angels the Twins made use of all three catchers on the roster, with Jason Castro catching, Astudillo playing third base and Garver filling the DH role.

Yesterday the Twins drew a surprisingly large crowd for a home spring game in May. The 31,919 announced attendance for the day time game is indicative of growing interest in the team. Twins president Dave St. Peter said that there is a lot of ticket buying interest including for the June 15 date when Joe Mauer’s jersey number will be retired.  The Twins will play the Royals June 15, likely in front of a sellout crowd at Target Field.

ESPN college basketball authority Fran Fraschilla has followed Alihan Demir, the 6-9 forward and grad transfer from Drexel who is the latest member of coach Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers 2019  recruiting class.

“I expect him to be a solid role player up front,” Fraschilla told Sports Headliners this week. “Not a star, but just a good role player for them. Someone that gives them power inside. He shoots the three but that’s not really his game. He’s more of a banger, plays with toughness. Very good passer.”

Demir, a native of Turkey who averaged 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds while making third team All-Colonial Athletic Association last season, joins a newcomers group that also includes 2019-2020 freshmen Sam Freeman (Dallas, Texas), Isaiah Ihnen (Boeblingen, Germany) and Tre’ Williams (Dallas, Texas).

Minnesota’s freshmen class is ranked No. 37 in the nation by 247sports.com.

Jeff Goodman, writing for Watchstadium.com last fall, interviewed coaches and then wrote an article ranking the best to the most difficult men’s basketball coaching jobs in the Big Ten. Criteria included tradition, national TV coverage, game atmosphere, facilities, budget, and geographical recruiting base.

Minnesota ranked No. 10—and surprisingly behind No. 9 Nebraska. Ahead of the Gophers and Huskers were (in order of No.1 thru No. 8), Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland, Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The Gophers softball team, a No. 7 team in the NCAA Tournament and host of the Minneapolis Regional, will play North Dakota State Friday night with the 8:30 p.m. home game seen on ESPN 2. Senior Maddie Houlian realized last weekend there is a lot of interest in her team.

“I’ve already been getting calls, ‘Can we get tickets, can we get tickets,’ ” Houlihan said in a Gophers news release last Sunday. “It’s going to be a blast. I think this state is going to get behind Gopher softball.”

Bill Robertson

Congratulations to Bill Robertson, men’s WCHA commissioner and former Minnesota Wild executive, who was among the inductees into the Mancini’s St. Paul Sports Hall of Fame Monday night. The Robertsons are the only family to have three members in the St. Paul shrine, with Bill’s brother Mike and dad Norb having previously been honored.

Sad to report that former Timberwolves executive Rob Babcock passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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