FORT MYERS, FLA. – Twins righthander Ervin Santana was summoned to join the Dominican Republic team and pitch on Tuesday against Puerto Rico in San Diego.
It worked well from a scheduling standpoint, as Tuesday was Santana’s day to pitch and he would remain on line to start Opening Day on April 3 against the Royals. Twins manager Paul Molitor said Monday that part of the discussions about Santana joining the team was to stay as close to his schedule as he could.
But Carlos Martinez was announced as the starter Monday night, which now throws Santana off schedule.
Santana, apparently, asked to start Saturday against Team USA. But the Twins are fine with it.
“He’s well built-up,” Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said. “Ervin will throw a side session either [Tuesday] or Wednesday.”
If he starts Saturday, Santana will have time to make two more starts — on or around March 23 and 28 — before the end of the month. He then would have four or five days before Opening Day.
Santana initially declined to pitch in the World Baseball Classic and remained in camp with the Twins. The Dominican Republic, in a group with the United States, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, is after a second consecutive WBC title.
“I think the [Dominican] players might have reached out to him,” Molitor said. “That’s kind of my feel.”
It has not been smooth sailing with some Twins pitchers and the WBC. In 2006, Carlos Silva was supposed to start for Venezuela but was used out of the bullpen, which rankled some club officials. In 2013, Samuel Deduno made three starts for the Dominican Republic as it won the title but reported back to the Twins with a groin muscle strain and did not pitch in the major leagues until May.
Also in 2013, Deolis Guerra had chest pains and a lack of circulation on his right side while with Venezuela. He was returned to Twins camp, and the Twins immediately had him airlifted to Tampa for emergency surgery.
The Twins were very impressed with righthander Fernando Romero before was assigned to during his stay in the major league camp. Beyond the fastball that reached 97 miles per hour and secondary pitches, they liked his mound presence, his willingness to attack hitters and moxie.
They liked him so much that they kicked around the idea of using Romero as a reliever and fast-tracking him to this year’s bullpen.
“I can see him as a reliever,” Molitor said. “I think [other] people envision him being a high-end starter too. So we are going to stick with that in the short term and try to get him stretched out.”
Romero missed most of 2014 and all of 2015 because of elbow and knee surgeries. He was 9-3 with a 1.89 ERA between Class A Fort Myers and Class AA Chattanooga last season and has become a top prospect.
After their day off Tuesday, the Twins play host to the Cardinals on Wednesday at Target Field. Tyler Duffey will start for the Twins while Mike Leake starts for St. Louis.
La VELLE E. NEAL III