Pitchers are the ones that get all the attention for arm injuries. Tommy John surgery, torn labrums, torn shoulder capsules, etc., we can name a whole list of maladies that hurlers suffer every season. However, hitters also have their own set of issues that doesn’t get as much press but can still wreck a season. We saw it with J.J. Hardy during his lone season as a Twin, where a wrist injury from jamming it into the ground during a slide sapped his power for the remainder of the season.
Speaking of wrists, Miguel Sano was drilled twice in the same wrist over a span of 11 days in late July and early August. The first time was against the Dodgers on July 24th, and though Sano didn’t start the next game, he did enter as a pinch-hitter. He ultimately struck out and then was unavailable for the next two days before returning to the lineup on the 28th. Sano then struck out a combined nine times over his next three games. Not desirable.
The second plunking happened on August 4th against the Rangers. Sano left this game and sat out for the next three days before returning on the 8th. Once again, he struggled to make contact even more than usual, as his next four games totaled 11 strikeouts.
Since his first hit-by-pitch, Sano has hit .247/.315/.457, which equals a .771 OPS and a 101 wRC+. While the power was still there, the wRC+ showed that he was just a league-average hitter, which is not what comes to mind when you imagine Miguel Sano. Part of the problem was indeed those strikeouts, as he was whiffing 41.6% of the time after his first wrist injury.
While we can argue over the significance of his wrist in relation to his hitting, I’m one that is always cautious about an injury until there is proof that it’s no longer a problem. Thus, while it’s been frustrating that he’s been out of the lineup with his shin injury, the time off has also allowed Sano to rest that sore wrist. Fortunately, Eduardo Escobar has caught fire since taking over 3rd base (.267/.313/.600, a .913 OPS and 129 wRC+) so we haven’t missed Sano as much, but there’s no doubt that the lineup improves even more with a healthy Sano.
The Twins announced that Sano took batting practice yesterday before their game against the Padres, so hopefully this means that he’ll be returning to the lineup shortly. Upon his return, it should be him and Escobar splitting 3rd base and DH duties, and the Twins should be firing on all cylinders in the hopes of advancing past the Wild Card game.