No suspension for Miguel Sano
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Major League Baseball said Friday it will not suspend Twins star third baseman Miguel Sano after investigating claims by a Twin Cities photographer that he assaulted her at a Minnetonka shopping mall in October 2015.
Baseball cited “insufficient evidence” and “conflicting and inconsistent witness accounts” after interviewing more than 20 people, including Sano and photographer Betsy Bissen, and reviewing available documents and communication records, according to a statement.
MLB left open the possibility of re-opening the investigation upon “receipt of any new information or evidence.”
“I want to thank Major League Baseball for conducting a thorough investigation and I’m happy to put this behind me,” Sano said in a statement issued in English and Spanish through the MLB Players Association.
“I look forward to focusing on the upcoming season and playing alongside my teammates. I want to thank my family, friends, the Players Association, the Minnesota Twins and my fans for their continued support.”
The Twins released a statement late Friday supporting the joint MLB-MLBPA policy “which governs serious matters of this nature.”
“The Twins are pleased that the Commissioner’s Office has concluded its investigation with respect to Miguel Sano. Miguel can now return his sole focus to the season ahead,” the team said.
Bissen alleged on Twitter on Dec. 28 that Sano forcibly tried to kiss her and pull her into a woman’s bathroom against her will following an autograph signing session she photographed. Bissen added that she tried to pull away from him in a struggle that left her physically sore the next day.
She has not responded to multiple requests for comment. Sano is scheduled to address the media Saturday afternoon in the Twins clubhouse at Hammond Stadium.
MLB investigators questioned Sano at the Twins spring training facility for four hours on Feb. 27. He denied the allegations when they were made in December and reiterated his innocence after being interviewed by MLB.
The specter of possible discipline for Sano hung over the team throughout the winter and spring training as the slugger and the team awaited results of an investigation by MLB’s Commissioner’s Office.
The risk of losing their power-hitting third baseman was compounded by news this week that shortstop Jorge Polanco had been suspended 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
In 310 games over 2 1/2 major-league seasons, Sano has hit .254 with 71 home runs, 195 RBIs and .844 OPS. He also has struck out 470 times in 1,313 plate appearances.
Injuries have raised questions about Sano’s durability and weight, which is listed at 272 pounds, and his sense of entitlement since the Twins signed the 16-year-old prodigy to a contract that included a $3.15 million bonus. He is hitting .303 with no home runs, nine strikeouts and seven walks in 13 Grapefruit League games.
Sano spent the offseason rehabbing in Fort Myers following Nov. 13 surgery on his left shin to repair a stress reaction that sidelined him for six weeks during Minnesota’s wild-card playoff drive. He returned for the final regular-season series but was not cleared to play third base and was left off the postseason roster when the Twins traveled to New York and lost to the Yankees in the American League wild-card game.
Penalties, including suspension and fines, are left to the discretion of Commissioner Rob Manfred under a joint policy with the players’ union on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. That policy was announced in August 2015, shortly before the alleged Sano incident occurred on the penultimate day of the regular season.
Seven such incidents have incurred penalties since the policy was put in place.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright was suspended 15 games Friday in connection with a domestic violence incident involving his wife in December.
In March 2017, New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia also was suspended 15 games without pay.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was investigated in 2016 after an alleged incident with his sister, but no penalty was handed down after both Puig and his sister denied an assault occurred, no witnesses were uncovered and available video evidence did not support the allegation.
Outfielder Hector Olivera, then with the Atlanta Braves, earned the longest suspension to date under the policy, 82 games without pay in 2016.