MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Twins deciding to outright veteran Trevor Plouffe this offseason, third base is finally open for Miguel Sano to take over full-time.
Sano, who came up as a shortstop and third baseman in the Minors, has played only 51 of his 196 games in the Majors at third because he was blocked by Plouffe. Sano instead saw time at designated hitter before moving to right field early last season.
But the right-field experiment is over, and the Twins are monitoring Sano this offseason to make sure he comes into camp in shape. The 23-year-old spent the early part of the offseason in New York City before heading home to the Dominican Republic, although he didn't play winter ball. He's expected to head to Fort Myers, Fla., early this month to get a head start working out at the club's Spring Training complex.
"We hear good reports about his focus," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You heard what he had to say at the end of the year about coming back and things that he wants to do, both in terms of being physically prepared as well as trying to undo some of the things that he found were a little bit humbling this year in his second time around."
Sano came into camp heavier than the Twins wanted last year, and he struggled to adapt to his new position in right field. But it was also a lot to ask from Sano, who was easily the biggest outfielder in baseball at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds.
Sano never played right field after May 31, and he finished the year as the club's primary third baseman after Plouffe suffered a season-ending oblique injury in early September. Sano's results at third were mixed -- he committed 15 errors in 42 games and was rated as below average by advanced metrics -- but he also hadn't played the position much in recent years, especially after missing the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery.
"He's not having the problem of having to be concerned about playing right field," Molitor said. "I have a fairly high level of confidence about his defense at third base of what I think it can turn into. There is still going to be some growing pains."
Offensively, Sano also took a step back from his impressive rookie season, but he was still solid, hitting .236/.319/.462 with 25 homers, 22 doubles and 66 RBIs in 116 games. Sano has hit .249/.346/.489 in 196 career games, and he figures to get better as he learns to cut down on his strikeouts.
Sano also continues to struggle against high fastballs and breaking pitches in the dirt, but he's a patient hitter who is capable of making adjustments with consistent playing time.
"I still consider him a very high-impact guy on our team," Molitor said. "He's just a guy you want to try to find a way to keep on the field in some way."