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Twins: Focus on pitch selection paying off for Miguel Sano

Minnesota Twins first baseman Miguel Sano (22) runs around the bases to score in the second inning against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, July 7, at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — The all-star break came at a good time for a large handful of Twins players nursing nagging injuries, but at least one player didn’t want to stop working.

“I’m going to go work in Miami with my hitting coach and come back ready for the second half,” Miguel Sano said last Sunday, July 7.

The Twins third baseman seems to have found his groove after struggling for most of June, the result of extra work with hitting coaches at teammate Nelson Cruz. In his past nine games, Sano is hitting .400 with four homers, two doubles, five walks, a triple and nine RBIs.

With a .486 on-base percentage in those games it adds up to a 1.419 OPS

In his previous 20 games, Sano was hitting .184 with seven RBIs and a .252 on-base percentage.

“I try to make adjustments every time I play and I try to hit my pitch,” Sano said. “If I don’t like the pitches they’re throwing me, I try to find a pitch in the zone and I try to hit it.”

In a three-game series against Texas last weekend – the Twins took 2 of 3 – Sano was 4 for 10 with two walks and four runs scored while consistently getting ahead in counts, something he didn’t do during his recent slump (38 strikeouts in 20 games).

“I’ve tried to be patient at the plate and try to find my pitch,” he said. “If I don’t see the pitch I want to hit, I don’t swing at it. If it’s three fastballs in the middle and I don’t like it, I don’t swing. But I try to find my pitch and try to hit it hard.”

Sano said he and Cruz, hitting .279 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs since joining the Twins in the offseason, are working together daily on a routine. The focus is laying off pitches out of his zone.

Sano has raised his batting average from .195 on June 27 to .236 and brings a nine-game hitting streak into this weekend’s series at Cleveland.

“I try to fight,” he said, “and in the second half I’ll do a better job.”

Odorizzi back

Jake Odorizzi will come off the injured list this weekend and pitch against the Indians in Cleveland.

Odorizzi, an all-star starter before developing a blister on his right middle finger, will start Saturday, July 13, in the second game of a big series for the Twins right out of the four-day all-star break. He is 10-4 with a 3.15 earned-run average in 17 starts this season.

Kyle Gibson will pitch Friday’s opener and Jose Berrios, an all-star who pitched a scoreless inning for the American League in their victory Tuesday at Progressive Field, is scheduled to pitch Sunday, July 14.

Gibson pitched a scoreless inning of a 4-1, 11-inning loss to Texas last Sunday at Target Field.

The Twins lead the American League Central by 5½ games over Cleveland, which has won six straight games and shaved six games off the Twins’ lead. Since June 1, the Indians have gone 21-9. The Twins, beset by injuries that sent eight players to the injured list starting June 18, are 9-9 since then.