MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Sano returned to the Twins' starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 19, going 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts hitting fifth as the designated hitter in a 3-2 loss to the Tigers on Saturday at Target Field.
It was a mixed bag for Sano, who is in the midst of a short tryout to see if he'll be ready to be on the active roster for Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees in New York. His hard-hit single in his first at-bat was a good sign, but he struggled against offspeed pitches in his next two at-bats that ended in strikeouts before facing position player Andrew Romine in the eighth and grounding out to third.
"He had a 3-0 knock in the first, but there were things we talked about like recognition and timing," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He was a little late on the fastballs, early on the offspeed. Not surprising. He had games like that when he was in midseason form, too. So that's what makes it tough."
Sano was surprisingly activated from the 10-day disabled list Friday, making his return as a pinch-hitter after missing 38 games with a stress reaction in his left shin. He grounded back to reliever Chad Bell on a 1-0 changeup in the seventh inning of Minnesota's 6-3 win.
Sano's first at-bat Saturday was more promising, as he smoked a 3-0 fastball from Buck Farmer for a single to left. The single on a 92-mph fastball had an exit velocity of 113.6 mph, which was tied for the third-hardest hit ball of the year for Sano, according to Statcast™. He jogged to first on the hit and advanced to second on a base-loaded walk before Eduardo Escobar struck out to end the inning.
"I felt good," Sano said. "I tried to hit a line drive, but in that situation, I didn't try to be a superhero. I wanted stay normal and try to find my timing quickly. I saw a lot of breaking balls in my second at-bat. I feel like I got my timing quickly. I don't feel like there are any problems."
Once Farmer started throwing sliders in Sano's second at-bat in the third, he had a tougher time, swinging and missing at three sliders down and away. Sano faced Bell again in the sixth, whiffing on a fastball before striking out on a changeup down in the zone.
"They threw me a lot of sliders and it was a little tough to recognize it," Sano said. "But every time I saw it, I learned from it."
Sano was robbed of the chance to see Major League pitching in the eighth, as he led off the inning against Romine. Sano rolled over to third on a 3-1 fastball at 85 mph for the first out.
Sano is expected to start at designated hitter again Sunday, as the Twins are trying to decide whether he'll be active for Tuesday's game and if he'd be ready to serve as DH over Robbie Grossman or be available off the bench.
"We'll see how [Sunday] goes," Molitor said. "I'm leaning that even just having the threat has enough value to consider it."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.