MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Twins got good news about Byron Buxton on Tuesday, it didn’t take long before the subject turned to Miguel Sano, ostensibly the Twins’ starting first baseman but without any practice since camp re-started because he rang positive for COVID-19 during intake testing.
They got good news on Sano on Wednesday when he was cleared to join teammates after two weeks of COVID-19 quarantine. He worked out for the first time since summer camp started July 3.
Buxton, the elite center fielder whose Achilles’ heel has been his health, doesn’t appear at risk for missing too much time because of a left foot sprain suffered Monday. He’s been playing and has looked sharp at the plate and in the field.
Now the Twins must see if Sano, moving from third to first base because the Twins signed all-star Josh Donaldson last winter, can use the next week to get ready for the team’s July 24 season opener against the White Sox in Chicago.
He has played first base in major league games, but only as a fill-in, and hasn’t worked with teammates since spring training was canceled in mid-March.
“I think it’s more of a question if Miguel is ready physically to play, more than anything else, more than the question about playing a new position or anything in particular,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after Tuesday’s intrasquad game.
During intake testing, Sano and utility man Willians Astudillo were the only Twins major leaguers to test positive for for the coronavirus that has killed more than 134,000 Americans, and has been spreading in the U.S. at a record-setting pace the past few weeks.
Because Sano has registered consecutive negative test results, he was cleared to play on Wednesday.
Like Buxton, another first-round draft pick who has shown bursts of greatness, Sano has had trouble staying on the field. A 7.8-WAR player and an all-star in 2017, Sano has played more than 100 games twice in five seasons, and never as many as 120. In 2018, he was sent to Fort Myers, Fla., in midseason to get into better shape.
“He’s going to have to be here to take a look at him, assess him, assess him in the weight room, training room, on the field,” Baldelli said. “We want to see him. We’ve seen him from afar. He looks good. We know he’s been able to do some things, but there’s no way to know anything for sure until we get our eyes on him, get him out there on the field and kind of figure it out.”
The Twins were scheduled to play a full intrasquad game, with two separate rosters, on Wednesday and will play an exhibition against the Cubs in Chicago before starting the 60-game season July 24 against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Sano “took to first base well” during spring training, Baldelli said.
“Probably the most important part of that is he has a desire to be good over there,” the manager said. “He doesn’t just go over there nonchalantly, get a little bit of work in, take a few ground balls, and think he’s good. He doesn’t think he’s good. He’s confident in his ability, but he knows that he has things he’s going to learn and pick up on and need to spend time on. And he’s been very willing to do it, which has been the most encouraging thing that you could ask for.”