HOUSTON – The Twins starting rotation could get a boost as soon as Saturday while the team is in Chicago to play the White Sox.
Righthander Ervin Santana could return from the disabled list to start that night, provided his simulated game on Tuesday goes well. It’s a chance for Santana to face hitters while the coaching and training staff evaluate how much progress he has made from a back injury. Santana strained his lower back nearly two weeks ago.
“It won’t be particularly long,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the tune-up session. “Somewhere between 30 and 40 pitches, approximately.”
Santana’s return could help stabilize a rotation that quickly fell into flux last week when he and righthander Kyle Gibson (shoulder) landed on the disabled list and lefthander Tommy Milone was moved to the bullpen. The replacements — righthanders Jose Berrios, Alex Meyer and Tyler Duffey — don’t have three months of major league experience among them.
So signs that Santana is close to returning are encouraging to the Twins. Gibson played some light catch on Monday as he progresses.
“That helps, obviously,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “You lose veteran guys who have been through this thing before. It always helps that you are going to get a few of them back in the near future.”
Plouffe to return
After Monday’s game, the Twins reinstated third baseman Trevor Plouffe from the 15-day disabled list, where he landed because of a strained right intercostal muscle. Plouffe played two rehabilitation games with Class A Fort Myers over the weekend to prove his fitness. Infielder Jorge Polanco was optioned to Class AAA Rochester to make room for Plouffe.
A starter, for now
Meyer finds it interesting how he wound up starting a game for the Twins.
“You go back over a month into spring training and I was trying to get a bullpen spot,” said Meyer, who reported to camp as a reliever. “Now I’m starting a major league game.”
Meyer has been a starter for most of his pro career but gave relief a try last season when the results weren’t good, appearing in 30 games. The best route to the Opening Day roster was through the bullpen, and Meyer pitched in camp until he was cut on March 18. But Rochester needed a starter early in the season, and Meyer impressed during three outings, two as a starter.
The Twins called up Meyer on April 25 when it looked as if their bullpen would be short because of a 16-inning game the day before. That never materialized, but since Meyer was up conversations began about giving him a start. Now he’s getting his chance.
He did get some work in before Tuesday, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk on Friday. The rust is knocked off. Now he has to show he has better control and more composure than he did on Friday, when his first two pitches were lined to center for hits, then his next pitch went to the backstop.
“The game was what it was and went the way that it did,” Meyer said, “It was good to get out there and get the first one of the season out of the way, playing in a major league game. At the same time you want to go out there and do well, so that part I wasn’t too thrilled with.”
Ryan would not say that Meyer is a starter for good, pointing to Trevor May’s move to the bullpen last year as an example of how unforeseen circumstances can affect decisions.
• Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, recently appointed as a special assistant to Ryan, is in Chattanooga this week. That means plenty of deep conversations with his former first baseman and current Lookouts skipper Doug Mientkiewicz.
• Closer Glen Perkins (shoulder) continues to rehab but is getting closer to attempting light throwing.