KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Paul Molitor sees a lot of himself in Ervin Santana. No, Molitor couldn’t pitch, but he shares a similar approach to the game, and demeanor on and off the field with his best starting pitcher.
“There are some things we do pretty well as far as trying to maintain a certain evenness in the way we go about things, regardless of what’s transpiring on the field,” Molitor said. “He’s very steady.”
Santana has pitched very well since mid-June, posting a 2.35 ERA over his past 17 starts. But the Twins are 7-10 on those games, and Santana has collected only one win since Aug. 16. Yet his serene demeanor in the Twins’ clubhouse, always smiling even during the worst of his team’s losing streak, hasn’t changed.
“You just hope people are watching and learning. We don’t have a lot of veterans, but we are fortunate to have a few who have had a fairly high level of success and have accumulated resumes that speak for themselves. And he’s one guy you hope some guys are watching,” Molitor said. “I know [rookie Jose] Barrios has really done a pretty good job of trying to observe some things from Ervin, and that’s probably where he can be the most helpful in trying to pass it on to one of our young guys.”
That’s why Molitor wasn’t surprised when Santana insisted on making his final start of the 2016 season tonight, even after being given the option of shutting down a week early. Molitor said he might try to limit the pitch count of Santana, whose 176 innings lead the team, but then again, if the game is close, maybe he won’t.
Santana will face Jason Vargas, the Royals lefthander who is making only his third start of the season after returning from Tommy John surgery.
Here are the lineups for tonight’s game, in which the Twins try to avoid tying the franchise record of 102 losses:
K. Vargas 1B
E. Escobar 3B
A. Escobar SS
J. Vargas LHP