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Zulgad’s Roundup: Miguel Sano’s slow start comes in key year for veteran slugger

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins
Mar 27, 2022; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Miguel Sano (22) connects for an infield hit in the fourth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox during spring training at CenturyLink Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

It will be interesting to see how much patience the Twins show with first baseman Miguel Sano, who has had a miserable start to the season.

Sano failed to get a hit in each of the six games on the Twins’ opening homestand, going 0-for-19 with three walks, nine strikeouts and one hit by pitch. A frustrated Sano broke his bat by slamming it into the ground at home plate after his final strikeout on Wednesday as the Twins lost to the Dodgers to fall to 2-4.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli often gives his players a day off but Sano’s likely replacement, Alex Kirilloff, went on the 10-day injured list before the homestand finale.

The Twins have become used to seeing Sano strikeout on a regular basis and have non-competitive at-bats. His struggles last season landed him in a platoon role at one point. Sano, who will turn 29 on May 11, finished the season hitting .223/.312/.466 with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs in 135 games. His 183 strikeouts were sixth-most in the big leagues.

Sano outlined a plan late last season to lose 20 to 30 pounds and reported to spring training having lost 22 pounds. But that hasn’t translated into success at the plate. Of course, slow starts are nothing new for him.

Last April, he hit .111/.310/.244 with two home runs, four RBIs, 13 walks and 20 strikeouts in 15 games. Although he hit seven home runs and drove in 18 runs in 23 games in May, he only had 16 hits in 84 at-bats (.191). You have to wonder if the Twins again will exercise patience with Sano, or look to put him into a platoon quicker this spring?

Kirilloff’s absence means the Twins could look to utility ace Luis Arraez to play some first base. Arraez is being held out of the lineup against lefthanders, but Baldelli could use the left-handed hitting Arraez at that spot.

This season is of significant importance to Sano because he’s in the final season of a three-year, $30 million contract that includes a club option for 2023. Picking up the option, would mean the Twins owe Sano $14.25 million next year. But it would cost them only $2.75 million to get out of his contact.

  • Kirilloff, whose rookie season came to an end last summer after he had surgery on his left wrist to repair a torn ligament, was placed on the IL because of pain in the wrist and will visit with orthopedic surgeon Thomas Graham in Ohio. Graham performed the surgery on the left fielder’s wrist last summer but he continues to have issues while swinging.
  • Twins fans have never seen a perfect game thrown at Met Stadium, the Metrodome or Target Field since the franchise’s arrival from Washington in 1961, but that had a chance to change on Wednesday after Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced on 80 pitches in seven perfect innings. However, manager Dave Roberts made the decision to remove the three-time Cy Young award winner, a move with which Kershaw agreed. Reliever Alex Vesia gave up a hit to Gary Sanchez in the eighth as the Dodgers recorded a combined one-hitter. A perfect game would have been the third thrown against the Twins: The A’s Catfish Hunter threw a 107-pitch perfect game in a 4-0 victory on May 8, 1968 in Oakland, and David Wells of the Yankees threw 120 pitches in a 4-0 victory on May 17, 1998 at Yankee Stadium.
  • The new grass surface the Twins installed at Target Field for this season after the Winter Classic included new infield dirt that is darker than the previous surface. It’s the same product as the previous dirt and is expected to become lighter over time as Diamond Dust gets mixed in.
  • The popular Baby Blue uniforms the Twins brought back as one of the alternate looks beginning in 2020 will be used again for certain games this season.
  • Two days after being fined $25,000 for improper conduct toward a game official following his ejection in the Timberwolves’ regular-season finale, Patrick Beverley was fined $30,000 on Thursday for “inappropriate statements during a media interview and on social media, including the egregious use of profanity” following Minnesota’s play-in victory over the Clippers. Beverley, who had been with the Clippers until this season, made it clear how much he enjoyed beating his former team.
  • Wild center Ryan Hartman will donate the money he received from fans via Venmo to Children’s Minnesota and pay the $4,250 he was fined for making an obscene gesture toward the Oilers’ Evander Kane out of his own pocket. Hartman made the gesture following an altercation during Tuesday’s game at Xcel Energy Center and on Wednesday fans started donating to help him. Hartman, and his teammates on the ice (Mats Zuccarello, Jonas Brodin and Dmitry Kulikov) all stepped in after Kane got into it with Wild superstar winger Kirill Kaprizov.
  • Sad news: Former North Stars winger Tom McCarthy passed away at the age of 61 because of heart-related issued. McCarthy was the 10th pick by the North Stars in the first round of the 1979 NHL draft and made his debut with the team that season at the age of 19. McCarthy had 146 goals and 333 points in 385 games over seven seasons with the North Stars before being traded to Boston in May 1986. McCarthy spent parts of two seasons with the Bruins. McCarthy’s greatest success in Minnesota came while playing on a high-scoring line with Neal Broten and Dino Ciccarelli and he played in the 1983 NHL All-Star Game.
  • Former Twins closer Taylor Rogers has three saves in three appearances with the Padres. Meanwhile, former Twins starter Jose Berrios lowered his ERA to 11.81 after giving up three runs and six hits in five innings of a 6-4 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday. Berrios did not get a decision in the game. He started the Blue Jays opener on April 8 against Texas and surrendered four runs and three hits with two walks while only getting one out in what turned into a 10-8 victory for Toronto.
  • Reminder that while Vikings’ record-breaking wide receiver Justin Jefferson is entering his third NFL season and his rookie contract includes a fifth-year option, he will be eligible for an extension following next season. Considering the money being thrown at wide receivers, Jefferson almost certainly will be expecting a significant raise before his rookie contract expires and, at the rate he’s going, he will deserve it.
  • While the Timberwolves don’t sell tickets for certain upper-deck sections during the regular season, the demand for tickets for the team’s first-round playoff series against Memphis has the franchise expecting to sell near pre-COVID capacity of 19,300 for Games 3 and 4. The Wolves will play host to Game 3 a week from Thursday after opening the series with Games 1 and 2 in Memphis.