The Twins couldn’t have picked a better day to send Ervin Santana to the mound. The 34-year-old righthander averages seven innings per start, and his team could really use an average-or-better one today, after using all seven relievers in Sunday’s 15-inning marathon.
“He understands the circumstances,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We’re hoping he goes out there and gives us a nice competitive outing.”
That said, the Twins seem “fairly energized” this morning, Molitor pointed out, though “we’re going to be fairly limited on who is available in the regular rotation in the bullpen.” Don’t expect to see Tyler Duffey, Brandon Kintzler or Tayler Rogers, for instance, since they’ve pitched two straight days. Matt Belisle threw 30 pitches on Sunday, so he’s iffy, too.
To ease the stress on the relief corps, the Twins have added Drew Rucinski and Jason Wheeler for today’s game, and don’t be surprised if both of them get into the game. Wheeler, who was drafted by the Twins in 2011 and would be making his major league debut, was scheduled to start today for Class AAA Rochester, so he’s obviously able to go as many innings as the Twins might need. Rucinski, who was here earlier this month, threw 31 pitches on Saturday, but “he’s a guy who seems very resilient,” Molitor said.
To make room for the two additions, the Twins put Justin Haley back on the 10-day disabled list with what they’re calling shoulder stiffness, and returned Kennys Vargas to Rochester. You don’t often see a team demote its cleanup hitter, but the move had nothing to do with Vargas’ 0-for-8 in Sunday’s loss, Molitor said. It was just a matter of numbers. “He’s one of our few position players who has options,” Molitor said. “We just told him, sometimes the game doesn’t seem fair. But it was the right thing for our team to add pitching today. His job is to try to accept the best [he] can, go down there and have good at-bats, and when we get to that 10-day mark, hopefully he’s back in the mix.”
The Houston Astros are across the field today, owners of the best record in baseball (35-16) and a four-game winning streak. They have scored the second-most runs in the American League, and have allowed the fewest, so it’s a considerable challenge. They Astros have never beaten Santana in four career starts, a trend the Twins hope continues today.
Here are the lineups for the Memorial Day matinee at Target Field: