Notebook: Terry Ryan calls Miguel Sano's actions a 'mistake'
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke at length Tuesday evening about the events surrounding the organization's benching of big-time prospect Miguel Sano after an incident surrounding a home run hit off former teammate Bobby Lanigan on July 23.
Sano returned to the lineup on Sunday for Double-A New Britain and went 2-for-5 on Tuesday night, including driving home the winning runs with a double in a come-from-behind 12th-inning win.
Here are some of the key points from Ryan's chat:
* Ryan called it a "mistake."
"I was there, and it wasn't good," he said. "But it was a mistake that a young player made. We addressed it, and it's done."
Ryan also said he did not have a sit down with Sano.
"I never had to talk to him about it," Ryan said. "The manager, the field coordinator, the minor league instructor and players were all there to take care of business. I think by the time he got to the clubhouse, he understood that it just wasn't the right thing to do."
* The discipline was handled by New Britain manager Jeff Smith. "I'd have probably held him out longer," Ryan said. "It's up to the manager to decide. He decided four games was enough. The kid was remorseful, so we put him back in."
Ryan said the suspension could have been of varied length, however, and it still would have made sense to him. "You could ask 10 different people who saw the episode in person, and they could all make a good case for a suspension of any length," Ryan said.
* Ryan spoke highly of Sano on a personal level.
"This guy is about as good of a kid as we have," Ryan said. "Sometimes young guys make mistakes; he made a mistake. I don't want to make too much out of this thing because we have this happen quite often. Unfortunately, this guy is a high-profile player, so it got a lot of attention. We have this happen quite often in the minor leagues; every club does."
* Ryan recalled the situation as Sano "standing at the plate too long, flipping the bat too far, and it took him too long to get around the bases."
Ryan's biggest issue, however, may surprise some.
"The biggest problem I had about the whole episode was that the next few guys have to go up there concerned about catching one where it'll hurt," Ryan said. "We're trying to win a baseball game. Once he did that, everyone went up there timid because they were afraid they were going to get plucked. That's no way to go up there and hit. So it affected the whole club. I don't think there's a player in that dugout who appreciated what he did."
* Ryan called the whole thing routine. "It's happened before, and it'll happen again," Ryan said. With that said, Ryan completely pinned the blame on Sano for the mistake, not Lanigan. The two had been teammates at Double-A before Lanigan was let go by the Twins and there were reports the two did not get along.
"If they had other issues going on, they should have settled it long before this," Ryan said. "Regardless of what kind of relationship you have with the pitcher, you don't treat the game like that."
Burton back on track
From June 1 through July 1, Jared Burton was dinged to the effect of a 9.90 ERA (11 earned runs in 10 innings pitched), with an opponent's batting line of .362/.434/.617. That comes out to a 1.051 OPS, or exactly the same mark held by major league home run leader Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles.
As a result, it was little surprise that Burton lost the eighth-inning set-up job to Casey Fien, who has been having a terrific season in his own right.
But Burton didn't sulk; instead, he's been unscored upon since. In the 11 subsequent outings, Burton has thrown 9.1 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only seven base runners (.393 OPS) in that span.
Burton credits good fastball execution for his rebound.
"I feel like I've been executing; my fastball command is a bit better," Burton said. "When I went through that little rut in June, I don't think it was as much not really executing pitches. I had some bad things happen -- hits falling in -- and sometimes it's tough to get through when you feel like you're executing pitches and you get beat. But it happens. To get back to concentrating on fastball command, and every pitchers offspeed works off that."
One thing Burton said wasn't an issue was health, as the righthander said he felt normal all June.
"It's been fine," Burton said. "Everybody looks for an answer sometimes, but it's just like wins and losses. You can play good and win, you can play bad and win. You just have to stay with it and stay even keeled for a whole season and know that your stuff is going to play out."
And while Burton worked a little mop-up and some sixth innings early on in his solid stretch, he has now worked the seventh or later in each of the past six outings. But Burton doesn't necessarily think of the situation as competing with Fien to get his old job back.
"I wouldn't say there's any sort of competition," he said. "The formula has been working. Whatever works and is better for the team in the seventh and eighth. Just like me and (Glen Perkins) last year. Whatever is for the best of the team, we'll come in and get it done."
* Left fielder Josh Willingham took on-field batting practice on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery on July 3. According to Willingham, the plan is to take four or five days of live batting practice before moving onto a rehab stint.
"I'll be striking out in no time," Willingham said, jokingly, before seriously suggesting that the surgery provided drastic relief to his knee discomfort -- especially since there was no swelling at the outset.
Willingham remains on track to return in the early part of his four-to-six week timetable, as he expects to start playing games on a rehab stint early next week. From there, the tentative hope is to join the team in Chicago. The Twins start a four-game, three-day set with the White Sox on Friday, Aug. 9 with a doubleheader.
Willingham said he has no plans to come back as a DH -- "I'll play left right out of the chute" -- and that he definitely feels vindicated in his decision to have the knee procedure.
Willingham will wear a knee brace during games for the foreseeable future, and perhaps even in his offseason workouts as a part of his continued recovery and future prevention.
* Both Darin Mastroianni (foot) and Wilkin Ramirez (concussion) have begun their rehab assignments with the GCL Twins. As they move back up the organizational ladder, they will be assigned to different levels, according to Ryan.
The pair batted second and third on Monday night in a 3-2 loss to the GCL Orioles, with a Ramirez single the only hit between the two in a 1-for-6 combined effort.
* Brian Dozier is day-to-day with some knee and back discomfort. An MRI on his knee came back negative, but the Twins will give him a day or two to see how he feels before running him back out in the lineup. He did not take live batting practice with his assigned group before Tuesday's game.
Dozier told skipper Ron Gardenhire during Tuesday's game that he's ready to play, but the second baseman will meet with trainers and staff Wednesday morning before determining his status for that evening's contest.