Sano used his 'normal swing' in Home Run Derby
HOUSTON — After hitting 32 total homers in the Home Run Derby on Monday in Miami, Miguel Sano didn't feel as if he needed extra work to recalibrate his swing for game action.
That's because, despite all those monster blasts on his way to a runner-up finish to New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge, Sano purposely kept his swing the same.
"I didn't change my swing in the Home Run Derby," the Twins slugger said Friday. "I had the same swing. I tried to hit the ball like in (batting practice). I tried to hit a couple to right-center and stop pulling. I didn't change anything."
Judge, who will face the Twins for the first time Monday at Target Field, was a different story, Sano said.
"I saw before the All-Star Game, when he took BP, he hit a lot of pop-ups," Sano said, dipping his back shoulder to demonstrate. "I didn't try to hit the ball real far. I tried to do a normal BP."
Sano's longest homer was 491 feet, and his highest exit velocity was 113 mph. Judge's 47 homers across three rounds included a long of 513 feet and a top exit velocity of 119 mph.
After participating in the 2014 derby at Target Field, Brian Dozier hit .174 with one homer and 11 strikeouts over his next 50 plate appearances the rest of the month.
Sano entered the break batting .224 with 26 strikeouts and a .666 combined on-base/slugging percentage over his past 72 plate appearances. That included three homers and just five walks.
Mauer's (almost) back
First baseman Joe Mauer appeared set to be activated off the 10-day disabled list for Saturday's game, the earliest he could return after suffering back spasms on the Fourth of July.
"I'd be surprised if he's not ready," Twins manager Paul Molitor said before Mauer took his first round of batting practice since the setback.
Mauer, who had avoided the DL since August 2014, underwent extensive stretching therapy during the all-star break and looked comfortable during an optional early workout at Minute Maid Park as well as in BP.
"Like riding a bike for Joe," Molitor said. "He had a good break in terms of returning to good health. So far, I've seen nothing that's dispelled that."
Despite a shaky first outing for Triple-A Rochester on Thursday, 44-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon remains under consideration to start July 18 for the Twins against the Yankees, one of his nine former organizations.
"Pretty much as expected," Molitor said. "There was a little bit of rust. Command was fairly good. Maybe not as good as it needs to be for him to be effective to his highest level."
Colon, who lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his first outing since June 28 with the Atlanta Braves, threw 76 pitches and worked in a few changeups and breaking balls.
Pitching at the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs affiliate, Colon gave up four earned runs on two walks and four hits, including a solo homer by shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford, hitting just .216.
"He wasn't supported by particularly good defense, from what I understand," Molitor said. "It could have had a different outcome."
The only error assessed to the Red Wings was on an errant pickoff throw by Colon in the fourth. He issued back-to-back walks to start that inning, including one to ex-Twin Pedro Florimon, but rallied to strike out his final two batters.
A decision on what comes next for Colon should be made by Sunday, Molitor said.
Twins catcher Jason Castro returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since signing a three-year, $24.5 million contract this offseason. Even though he played in Houston from 2010-16, Castro wasn't sure how to get to the visitors' clubhouse.
"I had to get D.J. (Pirson), one of the (Astros) clubhouse guys, to point me in the right direction," Castro said. "I figured my best shot was just to cut across the field to the other dugout."
As for Tal's Hill, the controversial ballpark feature that included a flagpole that was in play in deep center field, Castro said he liked it when he was catching and disliked it when he was hitting.
"It just depended what half of the inning we were in," he said. "It was a love-hate relationship for sure."
According to Fangraphs.com, the Astros have received 2.5 Wins Above Replacement from their catchers this year: ex-Yankee Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and ex-Twin Juan Centeno. That trails only the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants among big-league catching production.
The Twins rank 15th at 1.0 catching fWAR with that split evenly between Castro and utility catcher/emergency reliever Chris Gimenez.