MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sano has returned from injury, just in time for the playoffs.

How the Twins will use him, or whether they would at all, is the next question to be answered.

The Twins activated their All-Star third baseman from the disabled list on Friday, in time for the season’s final series against Detroit. Sano grounded out as a pinch hitter, his first appearance after missing 38 games with a stress reaction after fouling a ball off his left shin. Manager Paul Molitor said Sano would, barring a setback overnight, take a turn as the designated hitter on Saturday.

“I felt very good in the box,” Sano said. “I swung at a changeup. I saw the pitches well, so tomorrow I hope to be in the lineup and play the whole game.”

Sano said before the game that he plans to be in the lineup on Tuesday for the AL wild card game in either New York or Boston, but Molitor sounded more cautious in noting the last date Sano had played until Friday, on Aug. 19.

“That’s a long time not to have faced major league pitching,” Molitor said.

Teammates were guarded with their optimism, too.

“It’s kind of like making a trade deadline pickup there right before the playoffs,” first baseman Joe Mauer said. “But he’s been out a while. You don’t want to expect a lot. You just want to make sure that he’s OK to go and he’s able to produce.”

Activating Sano makes him eligible for the wild card game roster, which has yet to be finalized. Molitor stopped short of guaranteeing Sano’s presence on it. He said he would use either 10 or 11 pitchers, depending on how Sano looks at the plate this weekend. He’d likely be limited to batting duty in the postseason.

“It’s going to be a tough call,” Molitor said. “There is something about having Sano available, I think, that is very appealing.”

What had been a seemingly innocuous stay on the 10-day disabled list became a much bigger deal when the brawny Sano, who’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 262 pounds but has been playing heavier than that, was unable to make an efficient recovery.

“What can I say? Obviously I thought it was going to be 10 days, and that was going to be it,” Sano said. “Obviously it took longer than that. But the important thing is that we’re back and that we’re ready to play. I don’t think it should matter now how long it took me to recover.”

Sano is hitting .267 this season with 28 home runs, 77 RBIs and a team-leading .870 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 111 games. Despite his absence, the Twins caught fire in August and clinched on Wednesday their first spot in the playoffs in seven years. Utility man Eduardo Escobar took over as the everyday third baseman and has a career-high 21 home runs and 73 RBIs.

“We have had a nice flow. Our offense has obviously been really good the last several weeks, minus Miguel,” Molitor said. “But you are also talking about a pretty rare bat that has a chance to help you. We are going to have to figure out if there is a fit there, and if it’s going to make us better. I think everyone will understand, in that clubhouse, the potential of a healthy Miguel swinging the bat like he can. So you do, obviously, have to look at all angles.”


For more AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball