Twins righthander Ervin Santana arrived in the Twins Cities for an appointment with Twins doctors, then flew back to Fort Myers, Fla. after hearing the words he wanted to hear.

He can finally start a throwing program.

Santana, who had surgery to remove a calcium deposit from his middle finger on Feb., 6, has not bounced back as fast as he or the Twins hoped. It took longer for him to regain full movement of the finger and also struggled to grip a bseball.

The best case scenario was that he could return in 10 weeks following surgery. That can't happen now, but he could return in early May, which would be at end of the 12-week window.

"We have been going slowly," Twins manager Paul Molitor said, "and now he's going to have a chance to get out on the field and play catch in the throwing program and try to get him extended over time.

"It's early in the process, but at least the baseball part has begun."

Santana has to go from playing catch a few times to throwing in the bullpen a few times. Then he'll likely throw live batting practice before beginning a minor league rehabilitation program. Then he'll be on a spring training-like progression, in which he'll throw around 30 pitches then add more with each successive outing.

Santana has boasted that he's a fast healer, which wasn't the case in this recovery. Now the Twins will be challenged to keep him from accelerating his throwing program too much.

"We have enough confidence in his judgement," Molitor said, "as well as surrounding him with people who will be monitoring pretty much every thing he does."

Mollie juggles lineup vs Keuchel

The temperature is safely in the 30s, and the Twins and Astros are ready for Game 2 of their wintry series at Target Field.

The Twins, who on Monday took batting practice on the field for just the second time since the season began, did not hit on the field today. The defending champion Astros, however, bundled up and hit on the field.

Jake Odorizzi (above) will pitch for the Twins against Astros star lefty Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 3.27) in the 710 p.m. game. Odorizzi has no decisions in two starts and has a 2.61 ERA.

Here is the "righthanded" starting lineup posted by the Twins. Robbie Grossman steps in to right field for Max Kepler, Ryan Lamarre is in left for Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver will catch. Joe Mauer and Logan Morrison are the only lefthanded hitters against Keuchel.  Manager Paul Molitor talked on Thursday about how he would do similar things against lefthanded starters when the Twins faced one, James Paxton, for the first time.

Twins lineup:
Brian Dozier 2B
Joe Mauer 1B
Miguel Sano 3B
Eduardo Escobar SS
Robbie Grossman RF
Logan Morrison DH
Mitch Garver C
Byron Buxton CF
Ryan LaMarre LF
Astros lineup:
George Springer RF
Alex Bregman 3B
Jose Altuve DH
Carlos Correa SS
Josh Reddick LF
Marwin Gonzalez 2B
Brian McCann C
J.D. Davis 1B
Jake Marisnick CF
 

The Astros won Monday night behind Justin Verlander, but it was a game where the Twins had chances, if only those long drives would have stayed fair. Before the game, Byron Buxton was presented with his defensive player of the year award.

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