MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sano has returned to the Minnesota Twins, the experiment with making him a right fielder likely over.
The Twins recalled Sano on Friday from his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Rochester, after a 27-game absence because of a strained left hamstring. He was in the lineup at third base against the Texas Rangers, batting third.
"I’ve been working my whole life to be playing third base, and I feel really excited," Sano said before the game.
So he’s glad to be done with the outfield?
"Yeah, I’m happy," Sano said.
Manager Paul Molitor said he’ll use Sano at both third base and designated hitter, where Trevor Plouffe was slotted against the Rangers. There will be more at-bats to go around, because Byung Ho Park was sent to the Triple-A club to make room on the roster. Park, in his first season in the majors after dominating the Korean Baseball Organization, was hitting .191 with 12 home runs and 24 RBI with a team-high 80 strikeouts in 215 at-bats.
"We’ve all been impressed by his character and the way he’s fit in and the work he’s done to try to acclimate himself, not only to our team but to our culture, but it’s just been rough," Molitor said. "I think it’s been really, really tough on him mentally to deal with some of the frustration that came particularly over the last three or four weeks. While he’s understanding and certainly accepting of the situation, he’s going to have to go down there and hopefully lessen the burden a little bit."
Park, who turns 30 next week, went 9 for 66 in 19 games in June.
"He’s got to clear some of that clutter and kind of simplify it a little bit," Molitor said. "That was kind of my message to him this morning. Go back to what you know. You might have to make some adjustments, but don’t try to overhaul anything and hopefully get yourself back on track."
Sano hit .235 with 11 home runs, 27 RBI and 71 strikeouts in 179 at-bats before the injury, with a .341 on-base percentage. The Twins tried the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Sano in right field to start the season because of a roster crunch at third base (Plouffe), first base (Joe Mauer) and designated hitter (Park).
Sano was hurt running to first base after an at-bat, but he had many more adventures at his new position than he did highlights. Plus, another one of the organization’s top prospects, Max Kepler, has settled in as the regular right fielder.
"If get into a situation where I would have to put him in the outfield I would consider that," Molitor said. "That’s not really my preference right now."
Sano had four hits, including two homers, in 25 at-bats for Rochester. He also let an infield pop-up bounce off his head that was caught by a teammate, a blooper that subjected him to plenty of ribbing from the Twins. But he was just glad to be back.
"It doesn’t matter where they put me to play," Sano said. "I’ll try to play my game."