Last season Cole Sands pitched 80 1/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He got four innings at Double-A, then in Pensacola, during the 2019 season before Covid shut down the minors in 2020. There’s no denying that Sands put up impressive numbers last season, but he wasn’t seen as a guy that would contribute at the highest level right out of the gate.
While the excitement of a big-league debut is certainly a good thing, being asked to hold serve before you’re ready is a tall task. Sands made just four appearances, totaling 12 2/3 innings, with St. Paul before being thrust into action for the Twins. That debut came against a good Tampa Bay Rays lineup and didn’t go all that well.
Then he was optioned.
Until he wasn’t.
But then was again.
And then wasn’t.
From April 24 through June 17 Sands was promoted to the Majors and optioned to St. Paul a total of six times. Obviously, the distance isn’t what it was when Minnesota had their Triple-A team in Rochester, New York, but the ability to build any sort of consistency was simply not there.
Yesterday was the first time Sands pitched in three consecutive starts for the Saints since April 19. In total, he built up his innings count at Triple-A to 32 2/3. The numbers haven’t been what they were at Double-A a season ago, but for a guy being moved all over the place and still needing development, that’s hardly unexpected. After five strong innings today, Sands has allowed just two earned runs on 12 hits with a 16/5 K/BB across his last 14 innings (three starts).
It’s not as though Sands is all of a sudden ready to make a leap back to the big leagues, but continuing down this path of consistency is something that should prove valuable when he’s called upon next. None of this is lost on him either, and Sands has been grateful for every opportunity put in his path this season.
When I asked Sands about being able to put together a stretch in the same place where he knows that he’s taking the ball every fifth day he said, “I’ve learned a lot going up and down, but it’s honestly helped me a ton (to have some consistency). There’s been a lot of guys up there (with the Twins) that have helped with my pitches and how to use them. Ever since I’ve been back down, I see the game a little different now. There’s a design, an art, behind the pitchability side.”
When asked about the change in now having a consistent run with the Saints for the first time since April, Sands talked about making things from his time in the big leagues feel consistent no matter where he is. “You have to treat it all the same, whether you’re there or here, you still have to go out and execute whatever the catcher puts down.”
Sands misses Pitch-Com at the Triple-A level saying he wishes its technology wasn’t limited to the highest level. He loves the simplicity of not having to worry about the runner picking up on signs. “I’m a big fan,” he said.
There’s no denying that Sands has faced some juggernauts during his time with the Twins. Having faced the Yankees, Rays, and Astros all in his big league career already, it’s a learning process to understand that you have to work with who’s up to bat in the big leagues rather than just being able to attack every minor league hitter. “Seeing that your stuff can get those guys out, it provides confidence down here knowing I can get anyone.”
“It was a really cool experience to face the Yankees. When they called my name for that one I was like, no way! We didn’t win but I felt like I kept us in it. I’ve learned how to navigate through lineups. Which guys are you going to let beat you. I had to learn the hard way because Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton got me.” I did joke with Sands that those two get a lot of hitters, but it’s in that understanding that the Twins prospect has found growth.
He’s not looking to settle into what’s happening at St. Paul, the goal is to be a consistent big leaguer. Being able to develop through a level of advanced learning and consistency though seems to have helped take things another step forward.
Minnesota is hoping Sands winds up being a big piece of their future, and he sees that reality as something to strive for as well.