KANSAS CITY, MO. – Twins righthander Ervin Santana finally has recovered from finger surgery and will make his 2018 debut Wednesday at Toronto.
This comes after Santana went through a longer-than-expected recovery following surgery in early February to remove a calcium deposit from his right middle finger, which helps him throw his slider effectively.
“It’s going to be a little bit of changing it up in terms of where to slot him in,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We thought keeping him on his regular rest would be good.”
In his last start for Class AAA Rochester, Santana held Norfolk to one run over six innings Friday while needing just 66 pitches to do so. The Twins would have like for Santana to pitch deeper in the game, but nevertheless decided to reinsert him into the rotation.
By using Santana on Wednesday, fellow righthanders Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi all will get an extra day of rest. Combine that with the recent All-Star break, and the Twins feel good about how their rotation is set up for the remainder of the season.
Jose Berrios, who pitched an inning in the All-Star Game, is getting six days of rest following that appearance before pitching at Toronto on Tuesday.
This ends a process that took much longer than anyone anticipated. Santana, who was a 2017 All-Star and went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA last year, even predicted he would be back on the mound by the end of April — about 11 weeks following the surgery.
But he had trouble gripping a baseball for a couple weeks following surgery. Then he had trouble throwing his slider. Then his velocity was down in early rehab outings, and he continued to seal with some swelling.
The Twins stopped Santana’s program in late May for him to return to the specialist, Dr. Charles Melone, who performed the surgery. Santana was assured that he was on the right path to recovery and resumed his throwing program.
Following Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Kansas City, the Twins sent righthander Alan Busenitz to Class AAA Rochester to make room for lefthander Adalberto Mejia, who is starting Monday against the Blue Jays.
In addition to making room on the 25-man roster for Santana’s return Tuesday, the Twins have to free a spot on the 40-man roster as well, as he is being activated from the 60-day DL.
Red Wings try ‘opener’
Instead of starting Zack Littell against Norfolk on Sunday, Rochester started reliever Trevor May and had Littell come in out of the bullpen, as the Twins experimented with having an “opener” on the mound instead of a traditional starter.
This unconventional method has been attempted by the Tampa Bay Rays since May and could be followed by other teams. One argument for it is that teams can match up arms to neutralize to batting orders at the beginning of games. A “starter” who enters later in the game could avoid facing the same lineup three times.
The Twins conducted a test drive Sunday. May pitched a scoreless first inning before Littell took over and gave up four earned runs over 5⅔ innings in a 9-5 loss. Twins minor league pitching coordinator Pete Maki was in attendance.
Molitor said he spoke to Chief Baseball Operator Derek Falvey about the approach. The Twins have no immediate plans of using it in the major leagues.
“Part of our conversation was, if it does pick up momentum, and you find it would be something with at least potentially young starters and so much focus on the third time through the lineup now,” Molitor said. “That we at least think about exposing some of our guys to what that actually might look like.”