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Twins' prospect Sano learning to play the game the right way

Twins fans have been clamoring to see top prospect Miguel Sano in the big leagues all season; and, as the Twins have struggled, the clamoring has gotten louder.

But recently they were just hoping he would get back on the field after his four-game benching in the minors. He finally did Sunday.

Sano, 20, had been benched by Double-A New Britain Rock Cats manager Jeff Smith for the way he showed up an opposing pitcher after hitting a home run. Sano stood at home plate and admired the clout for an extended moment, flipped the bat, then took an inordinately long time (29 seconds) to round the bases.

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony, who saw film of the home run (which came off Sano’s former New Britain teammate Bobby Lanigan), called it “embarrassing.”

“I don’t care what circumstances or what excuses,” Antony told the Pioneer Press. “I think that was excessive. That’s not right. That’s not good for us, the Rock Cats or Miguel. You just don’t do that. He’ll learn that.”

Sano sat four games, spent a couple of those games coaching first base, and then returned to the lineup on Sunday, going 1-for-3 with a two-run single in the Rock Cats’ 9-3 win.

All the while, many fans thought the four-game benching was an excessive penalty for the transgression. They expressed their feelings on Twitter while some media members also said the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

But showing someone up has never been the Twins’ way of doing things, and the organization has remained resolute in defense of its discipline. If the Twins really do plan a September call-up for a young kid who has received enough attention to turn the head of even a seasoned minor-leaguer, they really want to send the message about proper decorum to him now.

“If anything, I think he’s trying to figure things out and understand,” Antony told the Star Tribune. “He’s a good kid but, like we say, it’s all part of the development. He has to understand that it’s not right, that’s not the way we go about (things) and we clean that stuff up in Double-A.”

Sano yelled into the opponents’ dugout earlier this season during another home run trot after the opposing pitcher threw at his head. But the Twins didn’t find fault then because rather than charge the mound he responded with his bat. But, according to general manager Terry Ryan, who was in attendance to see the most recent incident, it had to be dealt with.

“It was just a mistake,” Ryan said. “I was there. It wasn’t good, but it was a mistake that a young player made. We addressed it and it’s done. I didn’t have to talk to him. The manager, the field coordinator, the minor league instructor and players were there to take care of business. I think he understood by the time he got into the clubhouse after the game that it was just not the right thing to do.”

So, if Sano didn’t get the message before, he certainly has it now. His actions going forward will dictate whether Twins fans see him in September.