Twins

Jose Miranda Is Taking Things "One Pitch At A Time" On His Road Back To the Majors

Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not uncommon for hot-performing rookies in Major League Baseball to experience a sophomore slump. They’ve seen some time against hitters and pitchers, and the league adjusts to their weakness.

Sometimes, slumps could be a factor in playing through ailing injuries for most of the season. That was the case for José Miranda, a rookie in 2022. Miranda began Spring Training in 2023 with an injured shoulder, and setbacks occurred with his playing time. But fortunately for him, he remained healthy for the Opening Day roster.

“Last spring training, I felt great hitting-wise,” said Miranda at CHS Field on Thursday. “I felt good the whole Spring Training, but I never felt great with my shoulder. This Spring Training, I felt really good throwing with my shoulder and felt good at the plate, so it’s just really important for me to make some adjustments from last year.”

Miranda is working toward getting power back in his swing. It was all but absent last year with the Twins. Miranda had only three home runs in 152 plate appearances before Minnesota shut him down for the remainder of the season in July. His playing time this spring was limited to only nine games. While the power numbers didn’t return, his contact and walk rates improved considerably. He had a .320 batting average and a .393 on-base percentage in 25 at-bats.

“The first goal is just to stay healthy, get good at-bats, and try to get one pitch at a time,” he said. “For me, last year is gone already. There’s nothing I can do about that year, and it’s in the past. I’m just going to have more fun this year and take it day by day.”

Carlos Correa is a close friend and teammate who saw how the injuries impacted Miranda’s performance throughout 2023. Correa also had a below-average year for himself as a hitter, but having been in the majors longer than Miranda, he passed on words of wisdom to the young infielder before they parted ways in Spring Training.

“The one advice that he told me is, ‘Take it day by day but trust the talent that I have, and obviously, you can trust the process.’ Sometimes, things don’t go the way we want them to, but it’s part of it. This process, business, work altogether, and he just told me, ‘Go there [St. Paul] and put the work in, and you’ll get back here real soon.’

“There’s a lot of stuff I learned from last year,” Miranda added. “You’ve got to be tough, and it’s a grind when you play through injuries. And I’m just working a lot, getting better, staying healthy, so I learn a lot.”

And where can fans expect to see Miranda most in the field to start 2024? First base. Saints manager Toby Gardenhire says the signs of improvement for Miranda from last season are already beginning to show.

“He looks great, he’s been swinging the bat well,” Gardenhire said. “Last year was a down year for him the entire way through, and he was trying to play through it. There’s a lot of stuff he was working through, and it was kind of like a lost year for him. This year, we’re hoping to get him back to where he was before.”

The signs are there to return to form from what Miranda showed in his brief Spring Training games. The biggest question will be if he can bring his power back to what it was in 2022 when he had 15 home runs across 125 games, and he also led the Twins minor league system with 30 back in 2021.

Newly promoted Saints hitting coach Shawn Schlechter is up for taking on that challenge with Miranda. While it is the first season the two of them will be working together in the Twins organization, Schlechter is familiar with him and fellow teammates from his previous three seasons coaching at fellow Twins affiliates in Cedar Rapids, Ia., and Wichita, Ks.

“I think the first piece of this, what we do well is building those relationships, and a lot of these guys have been on my rosters before,” said Schlechter. “We’ve built that out and it’s a better understanding of what makes them click and how they work some of those ups and downs. I look forward to continuing to help these guys get to where they want to be, which is across the river in Minneapolis.”

For Miranda, it’s not a matter of if he’ll return to the Twins this season but when. Although he recognizes this is something out of control, after last season, he knows quickly that things can change in this game for himself and other players battling to play through injury like he did.

But as he said before, it’s not in his control. He has to take things one at-bat and down to one pitch at a time. As he grows more comfortable throwing with his shoulder again, he can expect to return to his most comfortable position in the field at third base as the season progresses.

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Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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