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Leg still bothering Miguel Sano, but Twins not thinking shutdown yet

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Miguel Sano (22) is loaded onto a cart after an apparent injury during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Sept. 4, 2018. Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins were relieved last week when an awkward slide by Miguel Sano looked worse that it was, but the third baseman hasn't been available since being injured on Sept. 4 and wasn't on the field for pregame activities Monday, Sept. 10, as Minnesota prepared to start a three-game series against the New York Yankees at Target Field.

"Progress is slow," manager Paul Molitor said.

Sano injured his left leg while stealing second base on a pitch in the dirt in a 5-2 loss at Houston last Tuesday, the same leg into which a titanium rod was inserted to help a stress reaction heal last fall. X-rays and an MRI on the knee were negative, but Sano has yet to attempt baseball activities.

"It hasn't gone, probably, like anyone expected after we got the news that everything looked good in terms of any specific injury other than soreness and some swelling," Molitor said. "It's been slow."

Sano, 25, has been plagued by leg issues since making his major league debut midway through the 2015 season, making trips to the disabled list for hamstring injuries and last year's stress reaction in his left tibia. He missed nearly a month this season with a left hamstring injury, and spent about six weeks on an extended rehab assignment in Fort Myers, Fla., to improve his core and lower-body strength.

Sano is hitting .202 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs — and 111 strikeouts — in 70 games after making the American League all-star team in 2017.

The Twins have 19 games remaining and already have shut down center fielder Byron Buxton, whose injury-riddled season ended when Triple-A Rochester finished its season. Would the Twins do the same with Sano?

"No one's told me that we're close to shutting anything down," Molitor said. "It's just a matter of when we can return to baseball activities. I don't know if it will be the next day, the next five days. But with three weeks to go, we're going to keep pushing, trying to see when we can get him back.

"We haven't given up hope that he's still not going to play some baseball here."

Briefly

Tyler Austin, out since wrenching his back when he slipped chasing a foul ball in a 9-1 loss at Houston last Wednesday, took early batting practice Monday but was not in the lineup.

Molitor plans to use an "opener" against the Yankees on Tuesday, rookie Kohl Stewart's normal turn in the rotation, and planned to announce who it would be after Monday night's game. Veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi is set to start Wednesday's series finale.

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