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Updated: April 21st, 2013 9:48pm
Notebook: Sano answers near-plunking with HR; Mientkiewicz heated

Notebook: Sano answers near-plunking with HR; Mientkiewicz heated

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Miguel Sano was ejected on Sunday in Palm Beach shortly after launching his sixth home run of the season for the Fort Myers Miracle.

According to the Twitter feed of Brice Zimmerman, play-by-play man for the Miracle, Palm Beach Cardinals pitcher Brandon Creath buzzed a fastball by the head of Sano in the fifth inning. Sano followed up a few pitches later with a monster home run to temporarily bring Fort Myers to within one run (they later went on to lose).

Per Zimmerman, "Sano admired his HR, then turned to the Palm Beach dugout and pumped his fists, was tossed."

Manager Doug Mientkiewicz was also tossed for arguing the situation on Sano's behalf. "Mientkiewicz wanted Creath tossed for throwing at Sano," Zimmerman tweeted," but (home plate) ump just warned him and both dugouts."

Zimmerman added Sano "was heated from getting a pitch intentionally thrown at his head. I haven't seen any attitude problems to this point."

After the game, Mientkiewicz's comments were pointed and direct.

"Basically, they threw at Miguel Sano for being good because they couldn't get him out," Mientkiewicz told MiLB.com. "They threw at him and missed him and he hit a home run [three] pitches later and the umpire threw him out of the game for yelling something at the other dugout.

"Hit him in the back, I won't like it, but it's part of the game. Throw at his head and it messes with his future and I have a problem with it. It's an embarrassment to the game of baseball."

Mientkiewicz added that the incident likely stemmed from Sano's grand slam against the same Palm Beach squad last week.

"We played them last week and they were running their mouths at him," he said. "Miguel hit a grand slam and kinda flipped his bat, and they took it the wrong way. He hit a big home run.

"Hit him in the back or the butt, I would understand that. They throw at his head and then two pitches later he hits a home run, you can't expect him to just put his bat down."

Sano is now hitting .375/.438/.734 with six home runs, five doubles and 16 RBIs in 17 games.

Earlier in the week, Mientkiewicz told 1500 ESPN Sano would "hold his own" if given a chance right now in the big leagues, although his glove is still multiple levels behind.

On Sunday, manager Ron Gardenhire was asked the same question -- could Sano hold his own in the big leagues?

"This is the wrong show for that question," joked Gardenhire, who is an admirer of Sano. "The other part of that is the general manager's show. I saw Sano down there (in spring training), and that was an, 'Oh my gosh.' He's a man with a bat, that's for sure, and he's got things to learn.

"Up here you have to understand they're going to spin the ball, they're going to do some things, and they'll figure out what works against a young kid. But I will tell you this about him -- he is so darn strong that he can get away with a lot. ... Sano would get his hits (in the majors), believe me."

No. 5 spot up in the air

With a conveniently-placed off day on Wednesday, the Twins don't need fifth starter until April 29 in Detroit. For the next week-plus, the rotation will be Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.

Pedro Hernandez will pitch out of the bullpen until further notice, which is a bit of a concern for the Twins, who would like to keep the lefty stretched out. It sounds like he will slot back in on the 29th, but the Twins will soon have other options for the fifth slot.

Cole De Vries (forearm) is expected to go on a rehab stint in the very near future.

Samuel Deduno (groin), who is currently pitching in extended spring training down in Florida, is "getting closer" to going on a rehab assignment.

Many people in the Twins organization are curious to see what Deduno can do after such a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic.

Kyle Gibson could also be an option at some point, but probably not yet. Gibson made it through five scoreless against Pawtucket on Sunday, but wasn't able to record an out in the sixth.

Gibson currently owns a 4.43 ERA with 19 strikeouts, seven walks, one home run and 19 hits allowed in 20 1/3 innings for Rochester.

The Twins want to see him go deeper into games, and even though he's on an innings limit of 130 or 140 in his first "full" season since Tommy John surgery, the team is OK with keeping him in Rochester as long as needed.

"He's pitching very well right now," assistant GM Rob Antony said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Saturday. "We've been pleased with Kyle. ...

"I know we'll monitor his innings, but going into this thing right now we just want him to go out, have a strong, solid season, and if the time comes and we need a pitcher, and if he warrants the promotion to the major leagues, it'll be definitely in consideration.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he pitches up here this year, but the main thing is we just want him to be healthy and build on what has a chance to be a very bright future. ...

"It all depends on what guys are doing up here, the health of our pitchers."

Getting off to a good start

Forget about playing meaningful baseball in August and September.

At this rate, the Twins should be happy about playing meaningful baseball in May.

With their fourth straight win on Sunday, the Twins improved to 8-7 and currently sit a half game back of the Kansas City Royals for first place in the American League Central.

It's early, yes, but by this time the past two years the Twins had already played themselves completely out of the division race.

Through 15 games last year the Twins were just 5-10. They didn't log win No. 8 until May 8 (8-21). The same was true in 2011 when the Twins also started 5-10 and eventually fell 20 games below .500 by the end of May.

Twins veterans brought up multiple times prior to the season how important it was to get off to a decent start -- or, at the very least, avoid getting off to the type of start the Twins did in 2011 and 2012.

"We're satisfied, or probably have to be pleased with 6-7 because our starting pitching has not been great," Antony said. "Our bullpen has been very good, and the hitting has been on and off. You know a clutch hit here or there and we could easily have two, three more wins, but to be honest with you I think the guys are going out there, playing hard, they're giving it a good effort."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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