After striking out against a no-name rookie during a spring training game in 2000, Ken Griffey Jr. asked Torii Hunter what that pitch that got him was. So Hunter asked the rookie, Johan Santana, who told him it was “The Equalizer.”
“For eight years, I played behind Johan Santana,” Hunter said Saturday in introducing the newest member of the Twins Hall of Fame, “and I saw The Equalizer equalize a lot of hitters.”
Santana, who went 93-44 during his eight seasons with the Twins, averaged a franchise-record 9.50 strikeouts per nine innings, mostly by using that pitch, more conventionally known as a changeup. Add that to his two Cy Young Awards, and his franchise-record 17-strikeout game, and Santana was an easy choice for the Twins’ highest honor once he became eligible.
Santana took care of that eligibility immediately upon taking the podium Saturday. “People ask me, ‘When are you going to retire?’ ” Santana said of his multiple attempts to come back from a series of late-career shoulder injuries. “I am now officially retired.”
He thanked his wife, children, parents and several important contributors to his career during the half-hour ceremony, including his longtime catcher and still-active teammate, Joe Mauer. Plenty of other former teammates returned to Target Field — where Santana never pitched — to pay tribute: J.C. Romero, Justin Morneau, Glen Perkins, and a trio of fellow Venezuelans: Luis Rivas, Juan Rincon and Carlos Silva.
He paid special tribute to longtime Twins coach Rick Stelmaszek, who died in November. “He taught me a lot. One of the things he told me was, ‘Control the situation; don’t let the situation control you,’ ” Santana said. “It took me some time, but I figured it out. You know what I figured out? Nothing happened, absolutely nothing happened, until I threw the ball. So make sure you’re ready before you throw.”
Santana’s .679 winning percentage is the highest in Twins’ history among pitchers with 100 decisions, and over his last five seasons in Minnesota, he led the American League in wins (82), strikeouts (1,152) and ERA (2.92).
Hunter recalled the night in 2007 when Santana struck out 17 Rangers in eight innings: “I didn’t get a single ball in center field,” Hunter said. “I was bored. I could have brought a lawn chair.”
After thanking the fans, Santana, the 31st member of the Twins Hall of Fame, chose to catch, not throw, a ceremonial first pitch, which was thrown by his son, Johan Jr.
• Aaron Slegers’ first rehab appearance for Class AAA Rochester had a good start but a rough finish Saturday. The righthander, placed on the disabled list in mid-July with inflammation in his right shoulder, got five outs, two by strikeout, against Pawtucket, but then gave up two singles and a triple before reaching his pitch limit. Slegers was charged with three runs over 1⅔ innings.
• Michael Pineda will pitch a Gulf Coast League game Monday in Fort Myers, Fla., and if all goes well, Twins manager Paul Molitor said, the Twins will formally start his rehabilitation assignment, with the goal of reaching Rochester for the final two weeks of the minor league season. The Twins will then evaluate whether to give him major league work in September.
• Matt Magill’s wife, Melissa, gave birth to a baby boy, the couple’s first child, in southern California on Saturday. Maverick Magill was born at 3:05 p.m., the Twins said, and baby and mother are doing well.