|Miguel Sano comes off the field after|
injuring his hamstring in the third inning
on Tuesday night in Oakland.
- deprives the run-starved Twins of their best power hitter
- potentially improves the outfield defense and
- probably refuels the continuing fan debate over putting him in the outfield to begin with.
Sano had homered in four straight games coming into Monday. He leads the club in homers, runs, RBIs and doubles. Despite all that, he's barely above zero in WAR, Wins Above Replacement, because of his struggles afield. If WAR has the defensive component right (and that is a significant if), Sano's injury really doesn't hurt the team very much.
We saw some of those defensive issues Tuesday night. Billy Burns of Oakland hit a flare down the right field line, and Sano had an awkward approach in which he came to a stop and waved his glove futilely at the ball as it bounced past. Triple, ruled the official scorer.
Sano may have done something to the hamstring on that play, but it was beating out a possible double play ball that caused him to pull up lame.
So he's out for at least two weeks, and Max Kepler has been called back up. I would expect the right field opportunity to go to either Kepler or Oswaldo Arcia. I much prefer Kepler. Watching Arcia chase another neck-high fastball in the ninth inning Tuesday night underlines that preference. And if Kepler is in right, an outfield of Robbie Grossman-Byron Buxton-Kepler will be quite rangy.
As for Sano: The big guy spent much of his Twins tenure last season nursing a hamstring issue, which was part of why he was almost exclusively a designated hitter. One of the concerns, at least outside the organization, with moving Sano to the outfield was the risk of injury. Connecting the dots here may merely result in an illusionary image, but humans are conditioned to see cause-and-effect even when there isn't. Some of us expected an outfielder weighing as much as 280 pounds to get hurt out there. Now he is hurt, and maybe playing outfield is a reason and maybe it wasn't.
But the Twins need his bat, and now his bat is absent for at least two weeks. Next man up.