FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ervin Santana brought his usual infectious smile and laid-back attitude with him to Twins camp this morning. Also: A dark blue cast around his right hand.
“Matches the uniform,” he joked, but it will also prevent him from throwing, or even pick up, a baseball for the next two weeks. There’s some minor pain in his hand, Santana said, but that’s normal post-surgery. And he’s looking forward, he said, to being rid of the nagging pain he felt in his middle finger when he threw his slider last season, a result of the calcification buildup in his knuckle that was removed last month.
The finger was indeed acting up during the wild-card game in Yankee Stadium last October, he said. “There was a little pain there, especially when I threw the slider,” the Twins’ top pitcher said. “But I didn’t think about it, you know? I was trying to win.”
He lasted only two innings, though, giving up four runs on a pair of home runs in the Twins’ 8-4 loss. Santana doesn’t blame his sore finger for the loss, though; as he pointed out, it was bothering him in September, too, and he had a 1.90 ERA in his final four starts of the regular season.
But after the season ended, he said, the Twins sent him to three different hand specialists for advice on how to deal with his condition. Two of them recommended surgery, which was done in New York on Feb. 6.
Santana will try to get the rest of his body in game shape until the cast comes off. The rest of the Twins, though, are in full spring mode now, with the first full-squad workout going on this morning.
Before commencing with their workout, the Twins held a nice ceremony that featured about a dozen Twins greats. Rick Stelmaszek “Stelly” Field was dedicated just outside Hammond Stadium, with Joe Mauer and Kent Hrbek unveiling the plaque that pays tribute to the longtime coach who died last November. “I’ve got a pretty good team behind me,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the group that included Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins, Bert Blyleven, Torii Hunter and many others.
A couple other nuggets of news:
— Brian Dozier isn’t taking part in the first day of camp, having been afflicted with kidney stones Sunday night. He’s seeing a specialist instead, and figures to miss a couple of days.
— Jake Odorizzi arrived in camp around 8 a.m., unpacked his equipment bag, and pulled on uniform No. 12. The Twins’ new righthanded starter made the rounds of the clubhouse, too, and seems to know many of his new teammates already.
— Michael Pineda has progressed to throwing from 60 feet now, in three short sets at a time. It’s good progress as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
— The Twins have fewer position players in camp than usual, so minor leaguers who have arrived early (their camp opens early next month) are being brought over to big-league camp to fill out the drills. I saw infielders Nelson Molina, Chris Paul and Ryan Walker on Stelly Field, and I’m told there are others.