FORT MYERS, Fla. — Miguel Sano paused his train of thought for a second to summon over his new teammate from the other side of the clubhouse. Josh Donaldson, Sano’s replacement at third base, came bounding over, and the Twins’ new first baseman wrapped him up in an embrace.
“Hey, remember the video …” Sano started. Donaldson knew the one he was referring to. “Yeah, yeah, I remember that. He hit me up and was like, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go,’” Donaldson recalled.
Around the time Sano’s three-year contract extension was made official in early January, he made his impassioned pitch to Donaldson, offering up his position in the Twins’ infield.
“I told him to come here, we need him and he’s supposed to be here,” Sano said.
And he did that knowing the impact that it would have on him, as he had to shift across the infield. Sano immediately went to work at first base and is spending this spring committing himself to improvement at his new position. In his five seasons with the Twins, Sano, 26, has played 31 major-league games at first base, where he has a .971 fielding percentage.
“We’re good friends and I (have known) Donaldson for a few years,” Sano said. “He’s a great guy, and (the Twins) told me (they wanted him to play third base), and I said, ‘Yes, it doesn’t matter. I can give you third base. I want to play every day.’”
Though Sano hasn’t played much at first base, he said he already feels comfortable at his new position. The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder said he planned to watch video of former Twins greats Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau playing first base, along with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. And he plans to talk to Mauer about the position when he comes to Fort Myers this spring. Sano said he would look at Mauer’s positioning and how he moves his feet on bunt plays as things he would try to pick up.
The point man tasked with helping Sano get comfortable at his new position is third-base coach Tony Diaz, who works with the team’s infielders. Diaz said he and Sano will be out doing plenty of early work, and Michael Cuddyer, one of the team’s special assistants, will be helping with that.
“You’ve got to put in the work, focus, work, and that’s it. It’s not rocket science,” Diaz said. “If you want to get better at something, you have to put in quality work, and he’s definitely willing to do that.”
Diaz said that once Sano found out about the move, he started working hard over at first, and his work has there already has been evident. Manager Rocco Baldelli agreed, saying the new first baseman dedicated himself to learning the new position the day he learned of the Donaldson signing, on Jan. 22.
“I’m looking forward to watching Miguel’s progress over there because he’s got some enthusiasm for what is happening right now,” Baldelli said. “I’d say the biggest goal in this camp, for him, is to just make him the best first baseman we could possibly make him.”