Sano's bat, communication keys as outfielder

Molitor will continue to use defensive replacements late in games

Sano's bat, communication keys as outfielder

KANSAS CITY -- Twins manager Paul Molitor had heard the comparisons between Miguel Sano and Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber, as they both had breakout rookie seasons last year, but were moved to the outfield this season despite being two of the bigger outfielders in baseball.

So with the news that Schwarber will miss the rest of the season after tearing the MCL and LCL in his left knee after colliding with teammate Dexter Fowler on Thursday, it only reinforced how important the communication between Sano and rookie center fielder Byron Buxton will be this season.

"It's a really bad break for [Schwarber] coming off the impact he made last year," Molitor said. "You get big bodies out there and the game sets itself up for collisions. And you think about those things. I think some people made some comparisons between Schwarber and Sano to start the season as two of the bigger outfielders you'll see in the game. But it was just one of those plays."

Sano and Buxton were held out of the starting lineup against the Royals in a 7-0 loss on Saturday, however, as Danny Santana started in center and Oswaldo Arcia made his first start of the season in right field. Only infielder Eduardo Nunez has yet to start in a game this season.

"Different people have different opinions on the need to get all your players into a game in the early stages of the season," Molitor said. "My goal was that before we got home everybody got at least a couple at-bats."

Molitor also expanded on the decision to pull Sano twice late in games for defensive reasons early this season, including in Friday's 4-3 loss. Sano was replaced by Eddie Rosario, who couldn't quite make a diving catch in left-center that allowed the tying run and set up the winning run to score. Rosario also had to bat for Sano with the Twins down to their final out and the potential tying run at second base in the ninth, but Rosario struck out.

Molitor, though, said he'll continue to use defensive replacements for Sano when he sees fit, but the manager did say it could change based on how well Sano is swinging the bat. Sano is off to a slow start, hitting .154 with no extra-base hits and three walks in four games.

"It's something that's been given a lot of thought to," Molitor said. "Everything from the right score to the right inning to having the right pitchers lined up to win games. If he's rolling and swinging the bat well, it might be more challenging. But I do think you need to have confidence in the people to get outs at the end of the game, and if you can increase their chances of doing that with a better defense on the field, a lot of times that's going to be the right thing."

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.