How Miguel Sanó lost 58 pounds, revived his career with Angels: ‘I needed to make a change’


TEMPE, Ariz. — Before the start of last season, Miguel Sanó was trying to earn a contract with any major-league team willing to offer him a shot.

Sanó played just 20 games the year prior and posted an .083 batting average in those 60 at-bats before having knee surgery. He was just 29 years old. He was also overweight, often injured and performing poorly.

Despite his working out for teams, there were no takers. Not that long had passed since his All-Star season in 2017. Heck, he’d hit 30 homers in 2021. But early last year, he was staring down the possibility that his days in the big leagues were over.

“Seeing that I needed to make a change, that’s when I decided to just go to Florida and start my workouts,” Sanó said Saturday through an interpreter. “I also ended up going to the Dominican and made some intense physical changes.”

Sanó said he has lost 58 pounds since last year, through strict lifestyle changes. He regularly does cardio exercises and switched to a diet that includes a lot more greens, paired with portion control.

And just as important, he spent last year making sure his surgically repaired knee was healthy. All of that put him in a position to sign a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels, after they had scouted him in winter ball. He’s in the mix to make the team’s final infield spot.

He has given himself a shot. A shot to show he can be the player who hit 162 homers in 694 MLB games. The player who has a career .808 OPS. He has a lot to prove. But now he has been given an opportunity that just a year ago was elusive to him.

“He looks good. We’ll see what we have. I understand wanting shiny toys and fancy signings and all those things,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. “But to be a good team, you need stories. You need some guys that emerge that maybe aren’t talked about a ton. He’s somebody that we really liked going into the offseason, and he proved that he’s healthy. He’s somebody we felt we should take a shot on.”

Sanó signed his initial international contract for $3.15 million. He quickly became one of the top prospects in baseball. His power is unquestioned. He has two homers measured by Statcast at over 495 feet, including a 496-foot blast that ranks the fifth longest in the Statcast era.

Strikeouts have always been an issue for Sanó. His 38.5 percent whiff rate is significantly up from the 24.8 percent league average. And he has regularly been in the 1 percentile of strikeouts. When he’s on, he fits perfectly in the three true outcomes mold: walks, strikeouts and homers.

He was good enough to earn a three-year, $30 million contract from the Minnesota Twins in 2020. But those three true outcomes immediately started skewing heavily to the strikeout side.

The Angels have erred on the side of signing minor-league free agents who have performed at a high level at one point or another in their big-league careers. Outfielder Willie Calhoun hit 21 homers in just 83 games for the 2019 Texas Rangers. Infielder Hunter Dozier hit 26 homers the same year for the Kansas City Royals. Lefty pitcher Drew Pomeranz was an All-Star in 2016. Jake Marisnick started 103 games for the world champion Houston Astros in 2017.

They’re banking on known commodities who have shown they can perform at a high level. It might have been a while for those guys. But it’s in there. Somewhere.

And there’s perhaps no one with more potential on that list than Sanó, who is just 30 years old. More importantly, he personifies the “best shape of my life” spring training cliche as much as anyone in the sport.

“It’s something I’ve added to my routine, the intense workouts,” Sanó said. “I’m working with the people here and have a set plan that I have with the trainers. But I’m also doing what I did back in the Dominican. A lot of cardio.”

Sanó said he has been told by his dietician that he can eat what he pleases but that it’s important to keep things in portions. And to avoid late-night meals, which can add up. He has been disciplined to have control over those types of decisions.

He said that earlier in his career, he felt as though he didn’t have enough time to get in shape. And, more importantly, he didn’t even know how to do it.

“I have the opportunity to do a lot of damage in the league, being in the shape that I’m in,” Sanó said. “I have an opportunity, and I just feel good about it. I think I can reach that.”

Sanó has spent many mornings this week in the same place: on the half-field outside the minor-league clubhouse, working one-on-one with Angels manager Ron Washington.

The Angels skipper is known as an infield coaching expert, a legend at that particular craft. And he has taken a direct interest in Sanó. Hitting fungoes to him. “Glove side,” he barks out before whacking it exactly where he said. “Bare-hand side,” he yells before doing the same.

“There’s two types of defensive players,” Washington said. “There’s those that can play defense and those that know how to play defense. In Angels camp 2024, they’re learning how to play defense, they’re not just playing defense. He just plays defense. Now he’s getting ready to learn how to play defense. There’s a big difference.”

Everyone recognizes what Sanó could, in theory, be for this team. He’s a major-league cleanup hitter when he’s productive. A lineup protector. With an injury-prone Anthony Rendon at third base and a thin infield roster, there’s potential for Sanó to be needed.

That’s why the Angels are invested in making sure he reaches that potential. And why he’s determined to stay on a much more healthy course that’s a year in the making.

“I feel like I still have the talent to prove something,” Sanó said. “I feel good about everything. I’m just focusing on coming here and working every single day and taking advantage of the opportunity that I have. I feel like I’m pretty young and I still have a lot to offer.”

(Photo: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

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