Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


Email Patrick.

Santana is a worthwhile option in center field

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: June 5, 2014 - 12:32 AM

Danny Santana made his eighth start and third in a row in center field for the Twins on Wednesday night at Target Field. This has been framed by media types and the sporting public as a desperate act for a team caught with no reasonable alternatives to the hapless hitter, Aaron Hicks.


The Twins have been questioned by many (present company included) for giving away potential stopgaps, Darin Mastroianni and Alex Presley, because of the ridiculous flirtation to have Jason Bartlett as a utility player.


That’s probably true, but so is this: Any sane follower of the Twins would rather see Santana getting a shot to be part of this lineup over Mastroianni, Presley or Sam Fuld (still out with a concussion).


Santana is a 23-year-old switch-hitter and as fast as any Twins player since Carlos Gomez departed five years ago. Ben Revere? I’d call it a dead heat, tops, for Revere.


There’s a strong chance that Santana remains the Twins’ future shortstop. For now, Eduardo Escobar has held that down in surprisingly successful fashion, and manager Ron Gardenhire has decided to go with Santana’s combination of unfamiliarity and talent in center.


Santana had a rough time in San Francisco late last month when he was cautious on a couple of fly balls into short center. On Monday in Milwaukee, he made a senseless throw into no man’s land and turned a 1-0 hole into a 2-0 hole for Twins starter Kyle Gibson.


The deal is, with his speed and his arm, Santana is more than equipped to be a center fielder. He played there only occasionally in the minors, and so what? It’s an easier position to play that shortstop.


There’s a difference between throwing Bartlett, a 34-year-old coming off a year of not playing, into left field, and using a young player with tremendous skills in center field.


Old-time Twins fans can see similarity between Santana’s presence in center field and what took place in 1966 with a player named Cesar Tovar. The Twins had traded lefthanded pitcher Gerry Arrigo to Cincinnati for Tovar in December 1964.


Tovar became a regular in 1966. A year later, he played in 164 games (two ties included), with 60 starts in center field, 56 at third base, 31 at second base, six in left field, five at shortstop and one in right field.


The moral of this tale is that if you have speed, talent and are a right-handed thrower, you can play most anywhere. This isn’t to suggest the Twins will have Santana play all nine positions, as Tovar did as a ticket-selling gimmick on Sept. 22, 1968, but he almost certainly can get by in center field.


Gardenhire’s recent lineups have had Santana batting first. If the rookie can pull it off, that allows Brian Dozier to move to a better spot for him, second, and will make for a better-looking lineup card.


It was embarrassing for all a week ago, when it was announced that Hicks had decided to give into the statistics and abandon switch-hitting. To have a 24-year-old trying to learn on the fly to bat right-handed against big-league righthanders brought on some much-deserved ridicule.


Fuld was out and the Twins’ view at the time was that they had no option to Hicks in center field. After a futile game for Hicks in San Francisco, Gardenhire went with Santana in center. That Sunday went poorly for Santana and the Twins, but Gardenhire has now gone back to him with better results.


Tom Kelly, the former manager, was working for FSN on Wednesday. Asked about Santana in center, Kelly said:


“As long as he’s in there somewhere. I think he’s an exciting player. If he can make the pitchers keep the ball down, he’s going to do OK. It looks like he can handle those pitches.’’


And playing center? “There are going to be some mistakes, like with any young player at any position,’’ Kelly said. “Hopefully, we can get him back in there at shortstop in time, but as I said: As long as Santana’s in there somewhere, it can be a good thing for the Twins.’’
 

Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 6:00 PM
Cleveland
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Washington
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How confident are you the Twins will improve in 2015?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT