FORT MYERS, FLA. — Twins officials have gone out of their way this spring to praise Miguel Sano for how hard he worked this offseason to get himself into shape.
Even when Sano was unable to take part in the opening of spring training after having a procedure done to repair the cut on his lower right Achilles’ area that he suffered in January, the Twins remained supportive. That didn’t change Tuesday when chief baseball officer Derek Falvey announced that the third baseman had gone to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to have another debridement procedure performed on the same injury because it wasn’t healing as well as hoped.
“He had a great winter,” Falvey said. “I know there’s a lot of focus on what (the) weight numbers are with him. I can tell you it was improved meaningfully over the course of the winter. He came in in a great spot. I think him playing winter ball was a good thing, just because it got him playing baseball, when he lost some significant time last year. So we saw all those as real positives. To have this setback, it’s really just unfortunate.”
Unfortunate, yes. Surprising, no.
That’s because, when it comes to Sano, it’s always something.
This time it appears Sano will be out until May and that sounds like the best-case scenario. Some of Sano’s problems have been self-inflicted — having to be sent to Single-A Fort Myers during the season because you’re out of shape, as Sano was last year, is a you problem — and some have been outside of his control. This time Sano suffered what turned out to be a bad cut on his heel area during a celebration for his team winning the Dominican Winter League championship.
But it’s not fair to ask Twins fans to try to parse through the many reasons Sano has had to miss games in the past four seasons. Sano is 25 years old, he’s entering his fifth big-league season and this is supposed to be the year in which he gets the chance to prove that baseball is his top priority. Sano made the American League All-Star team in 2017 and hit 71 home runs over his first three years.
But in the past three seasons, the Twins have played 486 regular-season games and Sano has played in only 301 of them, never appearing in more than 116. There was a strained hamstring in 2016. There was the stress reaction in his left tibia in 2017 that required offseason surgery. Last season, Sano played in only 71 games and finished with a career-low 13 home runs and 41 runs batted in. A hamstring injury slowed him, along with all the excess weight he was carrying.
It’s difficult not to be cynical about if Sano will return to the Twins before June. It’s hard not to wonder if Sano will put some pounds back on as his foot is immobilized. It’s hard not to wonder when Sano will be able to play third base again, given he still remains a large man with an injured foot.
Some will point out the Twins can plug in the recently signed Marwin Gonzalez at third base and get by without Sano. But that isn’t the point. The point is Sano — and center fielder Byron Buxton — have yet to fulfill their potential and everyone, including this franchise, needs to know if they are ever going to do so.
Sano will be unable to do that, at least to start the season, because of another injury. That means the Twins can’t even get him on the field to see if his newly fit frame means he is an improved hitter from the guy who had a .199 average and struck out 115 times in 266 at-bats in 2018.
That’s too bad, but not surprising, because it’s always something with Sano.