TAMPA, FLA. – No matter where Danny Santana starts a game, he finishes it someplace else.
Santana, informed Saturday that he has made the Twins roster as a utility player, celebrated with three hits Sunday, driving in two runs as the Twins won their fourth consecutive Grapefruit League game, 5-2 over the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.
More important, Santana played seven innings in center field — then moved to right field for the eighth and ninth. It’s the third time this week that Santana has done that, and it’s no coincidence. With Miguel Sano taking over as the Twins’ new starting right fielder, Santana could spend a lot of late innings substituting for the slugger.
“Right field’s going to be important. We’re trying to spread him out as much as we can,” Molitor said of his new six-positions-in-one Swiss Army knife. “He looks good in right. Two balls today, [he got] good jumps, one in the corner, one in the gap. Those are the things you’re looking for to gain confidence when you’re using him to close out games.”
All the shuffling — Santana can play three infield positions, too — is fine by the 25-year-old Dominican, if it means he has a roster spot. “I’m getting ready, for the most part, in center and right because I know I’ll have a chance in the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning to go in as a replacement,” he said. That versatility “is something I worked hard on, not only for this team but for other teams to see. You never know when I have to go somewhere else and they can see I can play all positions, and that maybe can lead to a position as a starting guy.”
Santana’s offense was all Phil Hughes needed as he tore through his former team’s lineup with ease Sunday, giving up three hits and one run in six innings. Brett Gardner homered for New York, but Hughes let only one other Yankees player reach scoring position.
“That’s as close to their Opening Day lineup as you’re going to get, which is a good test,” Hughes said of facing all nine Yankees starters. “You don’t want to just cruise through spring training, you want to see some tough competition. Top to bottom, there’s not an easy out in that lineup.”