Thursday, June 23, 2016

The value of outfield defense

Byron Buxton goes into the wall
for an eighth-inning grab.
I wrote earlier this week of some notably declarative utterances by Twins general manager Terry Ryan about Miguel Sano on Sunday. Since then the Twins have been considerably more vague about Sano, who is slated to play Friday in a rehab assignment with Triple A Rochester.

Sano was quoted this week as saying that as far as he knows, he's still an outfielder. Paul Molitor suggested that the nature of Sano's injury (hamstring) may lead to keeping the big slugger out of the outfield. The word from the TV broadcasters Wednesday night was that Sano is to play various positions during his rehab stint.

Meanwhile, Trevor Plouffe has had games at first base and designated hitter as well as at third this week, and Byung Ho Park has sat a few times. To be sure, Molitor suddenly has a number of hot-hitting infielders to fit into the lineup, but the bulk of the where-does-Sano-fit chatter still leads to third base or designated hitter rather than the outfield.

Byron Buxton and Max Kepler combined to give a little demonstration in the eighth inning Wednesday of why that's a good idea,

First Kepler -- who did mishandle a ball earlier in the game that cost the Twins a pair of runs -- made a diving catch in right field. Buxton followed with the catch shown at right.

Lesser outfielders don't make those plays. And Sano is definitely a lesser outfielder.

To be sure, outfielders need to hit too. Kepler drove in a pair of runs Wednesday and Buxton singled, walked and scored, so that was good too.


How insulated and absorbed in baseball is a major league general manager?

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