TODAY: Sano has yet to resume baseball activity, Bollinger tweets in the latest update, as the third baseman has continued to receive treatment on his shin.
WEDNESDAY: The Twins are currently 1.5 games up on the Angels for the second Wild Card spot and have a favorable remaining schedule — seven games against the rebuilding Tigers — but they may be without their top slugger over the final 11 games. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com write that Miguel Sano looks to be running out of time to make a regular-season return.
Sano hasn’t played since fouling a ball into his shin on Aug. 19 — a seemingly innocuous incident that ultimately caused a stress reaction which has prevented him from running without pain. It’s been previously suggested that Sano wouldn’t play third base again this season even if he did return, instead serving as the Twins’ primary DH due to the difficulties that the shin issue could present with his mobility at the hot corner. But, with 11 games remaining, Sano has yet to run the bases, and it’s now a question of whether he will take another at-bat at all.
“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?” manager Paul Molitor said to Twin Cities media. “…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 ably filled in for Sano over the past month, moving from a utility role to everyday third baseman and a surprisingly powerful middle-of-the-order bat. In Sano’s absence, the switch-hitting Escobar has batted .248 with just a .297 on-base percentage but a gaudy .530 slugging percentage as well (109 wRC+). Escobar has homered eight times and also chipped in three doubles and three triples with Sano on the shelf.
It remains to be seen whether the Twins would press the issue and try to work Sano back into the lineup for a theoretical Wild Card berth of American League Division Series appearance, should they advance that far. Even with Escobar showing surprising pop at third base, Sano’s absence is a significant blow for a team that is within arm’s reach of its first playoff appearance since the 2010 campaign — the inaugural season of Minneapolis’ Target Field. In 111 games and 475 plate appearances this year, Sano slashed .267/.356/.514 with 28 homers, 15 doubles and a pair of triples — good for a 126 wRC+.