For the Minnesota Twins, the answer for the past two days has been Miguel Sano.
The All-Star third baseman returned from nearly a month on the disabled list (left hamstring strain) Friday night in Seattle and found himself penciled into the lineup at first base for only the second time this season and the 13th time in his career.
He was back at first Saturday as the Twins faced a left-handed starter for the second consecutive night.
“I think there’s been enough work there between spring training and different times when we’ve had him out there doing work that he knows the position,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, who also noted Sano played some first while on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. “It’s a little bit different being across the diamond from where he normally plays. When he came back here, I didn’t want to worry about his leg being a factor. I want him ready to play day in and day out. As it turned out, because of other circumstances, first base is going to have to be an option right now.”
Those other circumstances include Joe Mauer being on the disabled list with a cervical strain.
Sano, who had offseason surgery on his left leg after fouling a ball off his shin late last season, didn’t seem concerned about the move.
“Yeah, I worked on first base in spring training. I played a couple of games already at first base,” Sano said. “It’s good to come back to my team and help out my team, do my job up here.”
As for the future?
“I don’t have any set plans for how it’s going to go, but (Sano) can handle the position at least adequately,” Molitor said. “I know he can catch a grounder. I know he’s got good footwork around the bag. He likes new challenges, he’s motivated by doing something a little bit different. We’ll see how it goes.”
Most importantly for the Twins, they get Sano’s bat back in the lineup. Sano batted .264 with 28 home runs and 78 RBIs last season when he made the American League’s All-Star team.
“It’s a nice piece to have,” Molitor said. “Our offense has been battling, but our run production hasn’t been very consistent. I like to think he’s coming back refreshed and ready to make an impact.”
Sunday’s series finale will feature Twins right-hander Jose Berrios (5-4, 3.82 ERA) against Mariners right-hander Mike Leake (4-3, 5.46).
Berrios is 1-1 with a 4.97 ERA in two previous starts against Seattle. He took the loss April 7 at Target Field, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings of an 11-4 defeat in which Leake allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. That gave Leake a 1-0 record and 5.82 ERA in three career starts against Minnesota.
The Mariners expect reliever Alex Colome will be available Sunday after being acquired, along with outfielder Denard Span, in a trade Friday afternoon with Tampa Bay for a pair of minor league pitchers. Span isn’t expected to join the club until Monday.
“Denard is from Tampa,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “His family and everybody is down there. It’s about as far as you can go from Tampa up here to Seattle. We’re looking forward to getting him here, and he’ll be a great addition to our team. Our players are excited about adding those two guys. When they get here, we’ll plug them right in.”