Sano struggling on pitches up in zone

Twins star looking to make adjustments as foes target soft spot

Sano struggling on pitches up in zone

BALTIMORE -- Miguel Sano was undoubtedly the Twins' best hitter as a rookie last season, when he hit.269/.385/.530 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in 80 games, but he did have one weakness.

Of Sano's 75 hits, none came on a pitch in the upper-third of the strike zone. On pitches in the upper third of the zone, Sano went 0-for-25, while pitches up and above the zone, Sano went 0-for-16.

The Orioles took advantage of that in the first two games, holding Sano hitless in six at-bats with all three of his strikeouts coming on fastballs up in the zone. Sano, though, said he's aware of how he's being pitched and will make an adjustment.

"I don't like high fastballs too much," Sano said before going 2-for-4 as the DH on Thursday in the Twins' 4-2 loss to the Orioles. "But if it's a ball, I can let it go and get a walk. The first two games, [I've] been too aggressive. But during the season, [I] can start taking walks. It's only the second game of the year."

Sano has drawn two walks so far, and did draw 53 walks in 335 plate appearances last year. Sano, though, thrives on pitches in the middle and bottom of the zone, hitting .446 (53-for-119) on those pitches last season.

Twins manager Paul Molitor has also noticed that trend of Sano being challenged with high fastballs, and that it even started during Spring Training.

"He's having a little trouble with the velocity pitches that are elevated," Molitor said. "We saw a little bit of that at the end of camp. I think he's just trying to identify pitches and is just a tick behind those fastballs. We'll keep working on it. It's just been a couple of games and it's not like anyone has come out particularly hot. But we'll need to get him going at some point."

With a slight uppercut in his swing, Sano is far from the only player who doesn't like high fastballs. Angels superstar Mike Trout is another player who enjoys pitches down in the zone, as he hit .243 (18-for-74) on pitches up in the zone last year, but batted .385 (89-for-231) on pitches on pitches in the middle and lower half of the zone.

Sano's splits on pitches up and down in the zone is a bit more extreme, but it comes in a small sample size of 82 career games, and Molitor believes Sano will eventually catch up to the those high fastballs.

"When he's on, he can get to those pitches," Molitor said. "He just hasn't found his groove offensively as of late."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.