Sano, getting no favors, says ‘umpires are crazy this year’
HOUSTON -- Twins right fielder Miguel Sano had another eventful night Tuesday when it came to close calls by umpires. Leading off the sixth inning with a shot to the gap in left-center field, Sano was called out at second for coming off the base ...
HOUSTON - Twins right fielder Miguel Sano had another eventful night Tuesday when it came to close calls by umpires.
Leading off the sixth inning with a shot to the gap in left-center field, Sano was called out at second for coming off the base just long enough for Astros second baseman Jose Altuve to tag him at the end of a hard slide. It’s a call that is rarely made, but Sano was left to walk slowly off the field in disappointment.
Two innings later, Sano struck out for the 39th time this year - tied with Detroit’s Justin Upton for the American League lead - when he couldn’t hold up his check-swing attempt on an 0-2 curve in the dirt. Plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called Sano out without asking for help from first-base umpire Scott Barry.
“The umpire is supposed to check, but he never checked,” Sano said Wednesday. “That’s why they have umpires on both sides. I didn’t swing.”
Sano, who was ejected by veteran umpire John Hirschbeck on April 10 in Kansas City, shook his head at how things have changed for him.
“Last year they checked a lot,” Sano said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with umpires. Umpires are crazy this year.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor agreed with a suggestion that Sano hasn’t been getting the benefit of the doubt often on check-swing calls this year.
“I see that,” Molitor said. “The strange part of (Tuesday) night was I thought there were some fairly obvious ones early in the game that (Wendelstedt) went and got help with, and then on that one, which was a borderline call, he must have thought he’d seen enough to make it himself.”
A month into the season, Sano’s walk-rate remains identical to the 15.8 percent mark he posted in half a year as a rookie in 2015. His strikeout rate has actually dipped a bit from 35.5 percent to 34.2.
His called-strikeout rate has dropped even more -- from 26.9 percent to 20.5 percent.
“I think young players are probably not going to get the benefit (on check swings), whether they go down to the corner umpire or not,” Molitor said. “Maybe it looks different from behind on a guy like that. I can’t tell you why, but he doesn’t get many breaks in that regard.”
Molitor didn’t necessarily see a difference in Sano’s check-swing outcomes from last season.
“I still think he got banged on borderline pitches as a young guy, but I think he’s gotten some respect in terms of being able to lay off tough pitches,” Molitor said. “It could change from umpire to umpire too. He has a tendency once in a while to not have the best body language when things don’t go his way.”
Could it be the Hirschbeck flap and Sano’s subsequent comments have landed him on a “bad list” for fellow umpires, whether subconsciously or not?
“I don’t know how those guys operate,” Molitor said, “but you do see sometimes, even from one crew to the next, that there seems to be carryovers. … Believe me, those umpires are fraternal. Sometimes those things can bite you.”
Added Sano: “I don’t want to talk about Kansas City. The guy over there (Hirschbeck) made a mistake. I made a mistake too. There’s nothing wrong I can say about umpires. This is a job for them. Only thing I will say is he’s supposed to be checking at first base and then everyone can feel better.”
The Twins haven’t signed an outside free-agent reliever to a multiyear contract in at least three decades, so it might surprise some to learn they went hard after right-hander Luke Gregerson after the 2014 season.
“They expressed interest,” Gregerson, 31, said before Wednesday’s game. “Houston and Minnesota were both high up on my list of teams I was considering. I just thought the offer Houston made me, with the possibility of closing, was too hard for me to pass up.”
Gregerson, who has 37 saves in 42 chances since signing a three-year, $18.5 million deal with the Astros, said the Twins were in the same ballpark with their offer.
“Yeah, they were pretty close,” he said. “I think if the situation was a little different, I think it would have definitely been able to work out. I’m happy where I ended up.”
An Illinois product who pitched at St. Xavier University in Orland Park, southwest of Chicago, Gregerson was a Team USA teammate of Glen Perkins and Joe Mauer for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also pitched in 2014 with Twins lefty Tommy Milone in Oakland.
Meanwhile, Astros lefty reliever Tony Sipp, who re-signed with Houston for $18 million over three years, said the Twins reached out to him less formally this offseason.
“We talked,” Sipp said. “It wasn’t aggressive, but they showed interest. Obviously the Astros showed the most. Minnesota seems like a good place. I was giving anyone serious consideration.”
Santana coming back
Ervin Santana had no ill effects following Tuesday’s simulated game, so he will come off the disabled list and start Saturday night at the division-leading Chicago White Sox. Ricky Nolasco will come back on normal rest to start Friday’s series opener. Young right-hander Tyler Duffey will start the final game of the road trip on Sunday.
Shortstop prospect Nick Gordon, the Twins’ first-round draft pick in 2014, was placed on the disabled list at Class A Fort Myers with a concussion after a collision with right fielder Chad Christensen during Tuesday’s game. Gordon, 20, is batting .309 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .447 slugging mark through 23 games.