Posted on September 19, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Against long odds, the Minnesota Twins have put themselves in a great position to claim a wild-card spot. However, it doesn’t appear that third baseman Miguel Sano will be able to contribute to the cause during the final two weeks of the season. Twins manager Paul Molitor admitted Tuesday that it’s becoming less likely that Sano will be fit to return from a stress fracture in his shin before the end of the season.
Sano has been sidelined since August 19 with the shin injury. He and the Twins have held out hope that he would return in time to help them reach the postseason. But his recovery from the stress fracture has been slow. Sano has been able to do some light running and hit off a tee. However, he’s not all that close to getting back on the field. Time is now becoming a factor in Sano returning before the end of the season.
“We’re down to a dozen games here,” Molitor said Tuesday. “My biggest concern now is even if he gets to the point where we get him on the field in any capacity, how much of a challenge is it going to be for him to have any type of timing at all? With some of the pitching we have to face, that’s going to be hard to give away at-bats just to hope he’s got it.”
Prior to going on the DL, the 24-year old Sano was arguably Minnesota’s most impactful offensive player. On the year, he’s hitting .267 with a career-high 28 home runs, helping him produce an OPS of .870. Even after missing a month of action, only Brian Dozier has more home runs on RBIs for the Twins this season.
At this point, serving as a DH or pinch-hitter is the most the Twins can expect to get out of Sano this season. Of course, even with a limited role, Sano would still need to run the bases on his ailing shin. He would also need to shake off a month’s worth of rust in order to be a productive hitter.
Even if Sano were fit to return, it would be difficult for the Twins to find playing time for him. Heading into Tuesday, Minnesota was clinging to a 1.5-game lead over the Angels for the second wild-card spot. That doesn’t leave the Twins with much room for error over the next two weeks, making it tough to give at-bats to a player who has missed a month of action.
“You’d like to find a right fit on a given day where maybe, ‘Hey, this could be a good way to get him back if he’s physically able,'” mused Molitor. “It’s hard to speculate until we get to where someone tells me he’s going to give it a shot and he’s got clearance and he feels good enough to be able to run 75 percent and let’s see where we’re at. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
Eduardo Escobar has been Sano’s primary replacement at third base over the past month. While his season numbers are modest, Escobar has been swinging a hot bat recently. During the month of September, Escobar is hitting .269 with seven home runs, posting an OPS of .982. Such a performance has helped the Twins maintain a 16-13 record since Sano went on the DL.
Nevertheless, the return of Sano late in the season could provide the Twins with a huge boost. Anything he could contribute could help Minnesota secure an unlikely playoff berth. Unfortunately for the Twins, it looks increasingly likely that Sano’s role for the rest of September and October will be limited to dugout cheerleader.