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Zulgad: Twins attempting to save Miguel Sano’s career with tough-love move

The Twins sent Miguel Sano a message on Thursday afternoon and it went well beyond the desire to get him out of a season-long slump.

By demoting Sano to Single-A Fort Myers, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine are attempting to tell Sano this: We want to save your career.

That might seem a bit on the dramatic side, but it’s not. Things are that dire when it comes to Sano.

A year ago, the third baseman was headed for his first All-Star Game and while his conditioning had been called into question more than once it appeared Sano’s power had the potential to make him a fixture in the Twins’ lineup for years to come.

But then Sano suffered a stress reaction in his left shin in August that pretty much put an end to his season and required offseason surgery. Sano, who finished with a career-high 28 home runs and 77 runs batted in in 114 games, also was investigated by Major League Baseball after being accused of sexual assault by a Minnesota photographer in late December. MLB announced it would take no action against him just before the regular season.

Sano failed to remain in the lineup for long this season, going on the disabled list on May 1 because of a left-hamstring strain that cost him 24 games. This time his absence didn’t matter. Sano has been hopeless at the plate all season and, in part because he’s either pushing or more than 300 pounds, he’s now lost the third base job to Eduardo Escobar and was playing first base or serving as the Twins’ designated hitter.

On Thursday during the Twins’ 3-1 loss at Detroit, Sano wasn’t even used as a pinch-hitter by manager Paul Molitor after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 5-2 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.

Watching Sano’s feeble at-bats in recent weeks made it obvious the Twins had to do something with him. Having him continue to try to play in the big leagues was unfair to everyone involved. His approach in each plate appearance has been to look to hit the ball as far as possible. The steady diet of sliders Sano has seen have caused him to take what has looked like a check-swing intended to result in a home run.

The call from here the past week has been to send Sano to Triple-A Rochester to try to get some confidence back and get into better shape.

Instead, Sano will head to Fort Myers hitting .203/.270/.405 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 148 at-bats and 37 games. He has struck out an incredible 66 times. It has been a long fall for a guy who came up in July 2015 and appeared to have a definite approach at the plate. He struck out 119 times in 279 at-bats but also hit 18 home runs in 80 games.

My 1500 ESPN colleague and Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse had written in recent weeks that sending Sano to the minors might not get the desired result. But Thursday’s move was not just done to try to motivate Sano and, honestly, Falvey and Levine can’t be concerned about how Sano will react.

This is being done in an attempt to convey the message to Sano that he must alter his approach to life and baseball in multiple ways. If he doesn’t, he has the potential to eat his way out of the game before getting the type of enormous payday that could set him and his family up for the rest of their lives. It also needed to be done so Falvey and Levine could send a message to everyone in the organization that no matter how much power and potential you possess, if you don’t take baseball seriously there will be consequences.

This move does exactly that.

Sano wasn’t demoted one or two levels, he was sent to high Class A and the place where the Twins have their spring-training headquarters. This is all about hitting the reset button on this guy’s career.

“We looked at it as, we’re not just going to follow the traditional view, just go get at-bats at Triple-A,” Falvey told reporters. “We wanted to take a step back and blank-canvas this. … We can do a lot of things there, (there’s) a lot of staff there. We felt that was the most supportive environment.”

When will Sano be back? The Twins can’t be concerned about that right now.

“I’m not mad, I’m happy,” Sano said of the Twins’ move. “They love me.”

Hopefully, Sano understands what tough love is because if he really thinks the Twins love what he has become his future isn’t going to be playing Major League Baseball.


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