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SHIPLEY: Twins' Miguel Sano is learning, earlier than most, that growing old stinks

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Miguel Sano (22) hits a single during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field in Minneapolis on Sept. 30, 2017. Jordan Johnson / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Is Miguel Sano fat? No. Stand next to him. The cat looks good.

But the question facing Sano and the Twins isn't whether the young third baseman is overweight; it's whether he can play an entire major league baseball season in his current shape and condition. Sano, 24, is one of the most promising power hitters in baseball, and if Minnesota is to build on what appeared to be a breakout season in 2017, they will need him on the field for an entire season.

So far, that just hasn't been the case.

Sano is carrying about 270 pounds on an expansive, 6-foot-4 frame, and the Twins are concerned. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said this week the team will approach Sano and his agent with a recommended offseason conditioning plan.

"I'm less concerned with the weight number; I'm more concerned with the body being in a place to be competitive over the course of a full season," Falvey said.

In his two full major league seasons, Sano has missed 64 games because of injuries — 27 to a hamstring injury in 2016, 37 as the Twins wrapped up their first postseason appearance in seven years this season. He also missed all of the 2014 minor league season because of an elbow injury that required reconstructive surgery.

While talking about his three-year contract extension on Tuesday, Oct. 10, manager Paul Molitor reiterated his goal to make the Twins a World Series winner. His task will be considerably more realistic with Sano playing third base. He is too young, and too promising an infielder, to become a designated hitter, and the Twins are trying to be proactive.

"We have a short-term, medium-term plan that we'll talk with his agent about through the course of the offseason," Falvey said. "We need to make sure we get everything right with this shin first."

Team and player are debating surgery, which would involve inserting a metal rod into his leg, and no doubt put a serious crimp in any conditioning plan. A decision is expected early next week.

In the meantime, armchair doctors suggested that Sano's failure to recover from his stress fracture in time to play in the Oct. 3 wild-card game, an 8-4 loss to the Yankees in New York, could be traced to the weight Sano's legs are carrying. He was injured after fouling a ball off the shin on Aug. 19 and didn't play again until getting a handful of DH at-bats in the last series of the regular season.

Armchair doctors aren't for-real doctors, of course, but they do watch football and see ostensibly healthy offensive linemen carrying about 30 more pounds than Sano playing with braces on both knees.

What Sano is discovering, well before most of us did, is that growing older stinks. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford has been sidelined most of the young NFL season by what team trainer Eric Sugarman described as "wear and tear" in the knee. Bradford is 29.

"Managing his body is going to be important to him moving forward," Falvey said of Sano. "He's a young man who's big already. We want to make sure that we have a plan in place that allows him to be successful moving forward."

Sano might be too close to the days when he could roll out of bed, ride his bike to the park and play 18 innings to take conditioning seriously. He probably feels too good each morning, and looks too good in the mirror, to really believe he needs to hit the gym.

The Twins hope to convince him.

"The reality is, guys need to be intrinsically motivated to do some things and we want to make sure he's motivated," Falvey said. "But we know he's motivated to be on this field and be successful. It pained him not to be a part of this team down the stretch, for sure, so we hope we've put this in the rear view."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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