SEATTLE – Ervin Santana is still being affected by the surgery that cleared out the calcium deposit in his middle finger, Twins manager Paul Molitor said Friday, so the All-Star righthander’s next rehab start will take place with Class A Fort Myers, not Chattanooga or Rochester.
“He’s been throwing for a while, but he hasn’t got everything back, in terms of how he’s spinning it and how hard he can throw it,” Molitor said.
Santana threw 45 pitches over two innings in Chattanooga on Wednesday, never eclipsing 90 miles per hour, and showed signs that more healing is necessary.
“It’s having some impact. You imagine he’s throwing 87-90 [mph] instead of 94, there are just things that haven’t quite returned yet,” Molitor said. Until the velocity and spin rate rise, he added, so even though he is eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list on Sunday, it’s hard “to feel like [his return] is imminent, as far as helping us out.”
Santana’s arm obviously needs to build up, too, considering that rehab start was his first competitive outing of 2018. Rather than have him battle through only a couple of innings against higher-level hitters, the Twins want Santana to pitch a longer outing, just for the repetitions. So he has returned to Florida and will travel with the Class A Miracle to Clearwater — Santana’s offseason home is nearby — to start Tuesday’s game. The Twins will want him to move up to Class AAA at some point, but for now, they want him to focus on recovery, not results.
“His pitches aren’t where they need to be in terms of velocity. All his pitches are down, the slider and changeup, too. So we still have to build him up,” Molitor said. “Everyone is anxious to get him back up here, but we’ll have to see how his starts go. He needs to go out there and pitch and try to build up, in terms not only of being able to sustain through a longer outing, but in how the quality of the pitches come back, too.”
Open to change
Miguel Sano is back in uniform, but not at third base. He didn’t sound particularly antsy to reclaim his normal position, filled by Eduardo Escobar during Sano’s monthlong absence.
“Escobar is playing great defense right now, and he needs to play too,” Sano said before playing his first game since April 27, when a he suffered a hamstring strain. “I’m comfortable at first base. I love it, I love it. I just feel good because they give me the opportunity.”
Sano’s return just adds to the juggling that Molitor must do at the corner infield spots. With Joe Mauer (cervical strain) on the disabled list, the Twins can split first base duties between the righthanded-hitting Sano and the lefthanded-hitting Logan Morrison, putting the other player at designated hitter.
“I don’t have any set plans in how it’s going to go, but he can handle the position at least adequately. I know he can catch a grounder, I know he’s got pretty good footwork around the bag,” Molitor said. “He likes new challenges. He gets motivated by doing something a little bit different.”
Sano said his first few at-bats during his rehab stay at Class AAA were “pretty bad,” but four days later, “I was hitting the ball hard and feeling really good. … I’m ready to go.”
• Mauer did some light cardio work at Target Field, but he won’t rejoin the team on this road trip, even though he becomes eligible again Tuesday. The Twins are being so careful not to trigger a recurrence of the mild symptoms he experienced last week — sensitivity to light, some balance issues — that when asked if the symptoms had disappeared, Molitor said: “I don’t know how to answer that. … They’re trying to make sure [he progresses] in small enough increments to prevent an onset” of the condition.
• Catcher Jason Castro, convalescing at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., following season-ending knee surgery last week, is expected to head home to California in the next few days.