Molitor frustrated that MLB's investigation into Miguel Sano still unresolved
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins want a resolution to Major League Baseball's investigation of Miguel Sano before spring training, but they are unlikely to get it until later this month at the earliest.
The team is not expected to learn the fate of its star third baseman before the club's first full-squad workout Feb. 19, according to a person with direct knowledge. So Sano will have to face questions in Fort Myers, Fla., about lingering allegations of sexual harassment levied by a Twin Cities photographer.
Meanwhile, manager Paul Molitor is still trying to establish a deeper relationship with Sano to help the talented but enigmatic cleanup hitter reach his full potential as a reliable run-producer and professional.
Sano has denied harassing Betsy Bissen, who posted on her Twitter account Dec. 28 that he attempted to kiss her and forcibly held her against her will following an autograph signing session at a Minnetonka mall in October 2015.
Molitor told the Pioneer Press this Past week that he spoke briefly with Sano over the telephone about the allegations.
"We didn't talk too much about the report other than that he was very strong on where he stands about what happened," Molitor said during an interview. "We spent more time talking about his program and getting ready for the season.
"It's a little bit frustrating that we're almost into spring training and nothing's been determined. I think that puts a lot of pressure on him going into camp and having to face questions."
An MLB spokesman told the Pioneer Press last month the league began its review "immediately upon learning of the allegations."
Sano and the Twins are cooperating with baseball investigators, general manager Thad Levine told SiriusXM Radio on Jan. 11.
In 310 games over 2½ major-league seasons, the 24-year-old Sano has hit .254 with 71 home runs, 195 RBIs and .844 OPS. He also has struck out 470 times in 1,313 plate appearances.
Injuries have raised questions about Sano's durability and weight, which is listed at 260 pounds, and his sense of entitlement since the Twins signed him as a 16-year-old prodigy to a contract that included a $3.15 million bonus.
Molitor said he has enlisted teammates to help Sano focus and hone his craft, but that has produced mixed results.
"I think the trend has been he's figuring some things out; some things have been a little harder to get through to him," Molitor said. "At times, I've tried to involve people that might be able to provide a voice that will penetrate. We're just trying to get him to see the bigger picture.
"He loves to play. It's all in front of him. He, as much as anyone in that clubhouse, wants what's in front of him, but I'm not sure he understands what is required to reap those rewards — of competing, winning, financial security, taking care of his family. We're trying."
Is there mutual trust?
"I think he trusts me," Molitor said. "I've been around him long enough. But he also has had a lot of influences in his young life, the attention that he's had. A lot of people in sports, especially young athletes, there's a privilege part in how they start to feel. I know I did. You try to be humble, but I think it affects you. We're just going to keep trying to help him in every way we can."
Sano has been rehabbing in Fort Myers following Nov. 13 surgery on his left shin to repair a stress reaction that sidelined him for six weeks during Minnesota's wild-card playoff drive. He returned for the final regular-season series but was not cleared to play third base and was left off the postseason roster when the Twins traveled to New York and lost to the Yankees in the American League wild-card game.
Meanwhile, MLB's investigation continues with Twins pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to camp Tuesday.
Penalties, including suspension and fines, are left to the discretion of Commissioner Rob Manfred under a joint policy with the players' union on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. That policy was announced in August 2015, shortly before the alleged incident occurred on the penultimate day of the regular season.
Six such incidents have incurred penalties since the policy was put in place, most recently last March when New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia was suspended 15 games without pay.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was investigated in 2016 after an alleged incident with his sister, but no penalty was handed down after both Puig and his sister denied an assault occurred, no witnesses were uncovered and available video evidence did not support the allegation.
Outfielder Hector Olivera, then with the Atlanta Braves, earned the longest suspension to date under the policy, 82 games without pay in 2016.