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Sano might not be ready to play even if injury heals

Twins third baseman Miguel Sano celebrate another big hit. USA Today file photo

NEW YORK — Miguel Sano appears to be running out of time to reclaim a regular playing role for the Twins, even if they make it to the division series.

Having last played on Aug. 19 due to a stress reaction in his left shin, the power-hitting third baseman was due to fly back to the Twin Cities on Tuesday night after dealing with a personal matter in New York, where he splits time during the offseason.

"We're down to a dozen games here," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "My biggest concern now is even if he gets to the point where we get him on the field in any capacity, how much of a challenge is it going to be for him to have any type of timing at all? With some of the pitching we have to face, that's going to be hard to give away at-bats just to hope he's got it."

Tuesday marked Sano's 31st day on the shelf as he remains limited to hitting off a tee and light jogging. The chances of him returning to the field, where he was much improved this season at third base, appear to be nearly nil unless the Twins go on a sustained postseason run.

Even trying to serve as designated hitter or an occasional pinch hitter could be too much to ask in the near term, especially with Twins instructional league still on hold in Fort Myers, Fla., after Hurricane Irma.

"You'd like to find a right fit on a given day where maybe, 'Hey, this could be a good way to get him back if he's physically able,' " Molitor said. "It's hard to speculate until we get to where someone tells me he's going to give it a shot and he's got clearance and he feels good enough to be able to run 75 percent and let's see where we're at. I don't know if that's going to happen."

Asked if there was also a concern Sano might try to overextend himself running the bases in a game situation, Molitor said that could be part of the equation as well.

"We're not to that point, but I think when you get there — if you do — sure," Molitor said. "You've got a chance to do something to help your team, and the emotion sometimes overtakes good judgment on what you try to accomplish."

The Twins entered Tuesday's game 16-13 since Sano went down. On the night he fouled a ball off his shin, Sano hit a pair of mammoth home runs totaling 909 feet (440 and 469) in just the third multihomer game of his career.

His primary replacement, Eduardo Escobar, was slugging .549 with eight homers and 21 runs batted in over those 29 games. Seven of those home runs had come in Escobar's past 16 games.

EQUIPMENT CHANGE

Twins catcher Jason Castro recently switched masks after missing 10 days with a concussion due to a pair of foul tips on Aug. 23 in Chicago.

Instead of titanium alloy, which he had used for years, Castro's new mask is made of magnesium. He got it from Twins backup catcher Chris Gimenez, who uses magnesium as well.

"It's the same weight generally, but it's supposed to give a little more," Castro said. "It's not as rigid."

Rookie Twins catcher Mitch Garver, who suffered two concussions at Class A Cedar Rapids in 2014, uses a spring-loaded mask, but Castro didn't want the additional weight.

"The spring one is pretty heavy," Castro said, "so that's something I didn't want to just jump into right away."

According to an online description for the All-Star magnesium mask, the material offers "low density for extremely light weight (16.8 ounces), high vibration-damping properties, and very high durability and safety."

BRIEFLY

— Yankees rookie right-hander Luis Severino was moved up to start Wednesday's series finale in place of fellow righty Masahiro Tanaka. Severino had been tentatively scheduled to start a potential wild-card game on Oct. 3, but the Yankees might prefer to get him three starts before the end of the regular season instead.

— Twins rookie outfielder Zack Granite, who dropped a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt off hard-throwing Dellin Betances in Monday's 2-1 loss, welcomed players and coaches on Tuesday from Seton Hall University, where he starred this decade. Granite, who grew up in Staten Island, N.Y., had about 50 friends and family members in the stands on Monday but was expecting between 150 and 200 on Tuesday.

— After Hurricane Irma skirted Puerto Rico this month, Twins players Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas were worried about friends and family back home as Hurricane Maria moved closer. "They are all dealing with another bout of anxiety related to their homeland," Molitor said. "It's hard to imagine it's not at least a little bit on their mind."

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