Patience at plate leading to success for Sano

Twins third baseman has started 2017 season hot

Patience at plate leading to success for Sano

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman Miguel Sano is off to a hot start offensively, and he believes being patient at the plate and laying off pitches out of the strike zone has helped him with his early success.

Sano entered Friday hitting .310/.459/.793 with three homers, 11 doubles and eight strikeouts compared to 11 walks in nine games. He's laid off pitches out of the zone, dropping his swing rate on pitches out of the zone from 23.7 percent to 22.8 percent, while increasing his contact rate on pitches in the zone from 62.9 percent to 73.9 percent.

He's also seeing 4.46 pitches per plate appearance, which is 14th in the Majors. And when he makes contact, he's crushing the ball, as he leads the Majors with an average exit velocity of 99.7 mph, up from 93.2 mph last season. That combined with a higher launch angle -- 23.4 degrees compared to 17.1 degrees last year -- has led to fewer ground balls and more extra-base hits for Sano.

"This year, I'm not trying to do too much like last year," Sano said. "I'm letting the pitches come to me and trying to hit them hard. I'm more patient."

Sano's huge two-run homer

Twins manager Paul Molitor has been impressed by Sano's approach, and how he's been more consistent with it compared to last year. But he noted Sano tends to go on hot streaks at the plate, and they're hoping this is the start of a better trend than just a hot start that'll fade.

"We've seen him have stretches like this, but even more so two years ago," Molitor said. "He understands the value of seeing a lot of pitches and taking walks and take advantage when there are mistakes. The really good hitters do it for long stretches and multiple years."

Sano has doubled his walk rate from 10.9 percent to 21.6 percent this year, while cutting down on his strikeout rate from a league-worst 36 percent to a more manageable, albeit high, 29.7 percent.

He's also changed his mechanics, lowering his hands just a bit compared to last year to get his bat to the zone quicker. But they're not quite as low as when he experimented with his new hand position early in Spring Training.

It's only been nine games, so Molitor said it's too early to glean too much, but he's certainly happy with what he's been seeing.

"I think the more he can do that and the more affirmation he gets from his results with the team winning, and his role in scoring runs, hopefully he sees that," Molitor said. "And it'll allow him to be as consistent as he can be."

Worth noting

ByungHo Park's hamstring strain is considered mild and he's not expected to miss significant time at Triple-A Rochester, Molitor said.

• Infielder Ehire Adrianza (oblique) is scheduled to play in an extended Spring Training game on Monday. He'll start a rehab assignment next week if all goes to plan.

• Left-hander Ryan O'Rourke (forearm) started his throwing program and is expected to start throwing bullpen sessions in about a week.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. 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.