FORT MYERS, FLA. – Pitchers like to tinker, especially during spring training. And that’s what Twins righthander Ervin Santana is doing with his changeup.
Santana threw several of them Saturday during his three-inning outing in a 6-2 Twins victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Even when he fell behind 3-0 to Justin Smoak with two on in the third, he threw changeups on consecutive pitches.
“Some people go up there and pitch and don’t have the feel for one type of pitch and don’t throw it anymore,” Santana said. “Me, I keep throwing it until I get it better.”
Whether Santana uses the changeup more remains to be seen. His changeup usage, according to the website FanGraphs, spiked to a career high 14.2 percent in 2014 but declined in 2015 and was at 10.5 percent last season.
Santana’s best fastball Saturday was measured at 93 miles per hour. One of his changeups came in at 82. If pitchers can get at least an 8-mph difference between a fastball and a changeup, they can disrupt a hitter’s timing.
“Just want to get a feel for it,” he said. “That’s a good pitch for a pitcher.”
Spring is also the time to tinker with starting rotations, but manager Paul Molitor indicated there won’t be more than one spot up for grabs. As of now, Santana, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Hector Santiago will make up the first four spots.
“I would say something would have to get fairly derailed for a change,” he said. “I don’t expect that to happen.”
Molitor was impressed with lefthander Adalberto Mejia, who threw 1⅔ scoreless innings Saturday and hit 95 mph with one pitch.
“Mejia is attractive,” Molitor said. “He’s lefthanded. He throws his offspeed at any count. He’s a strike thrower.”
Molitor also mentioned Trevor May, Jose Berrios, Ryan Vogelsong and Tyler Duffey as candidates for the fifth rotation spot.
Santana’s status is unquestioned. He threw three shutout innings Saturday, giving up five hits and a walk with one strikeout. Most of the hits weren’t hit hard, including a single by Kendrys Morales in the first that beat an infield shift. Santana is the first Twins starter to pitch at least three innings this spring.
Class AAA Rochester manager Mike Quade is leaving camp Sunday to head to the Twin Cities, where he will have surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff suffered in an automobile accident last weekend. Surgery will take place Monday, and Quade is expected back by Wednesday.
Quade was injured when the car he was traveling in was rear-ended Feb. 25. Twins head physician Dr. John Steubs will conduct the surgery.
• Lefthander Mason Melotakis (right oblique) is scheduled to throw in the bullpen Sunday.
• While the Twins have a scheduled off day on Tuesday, Hughes is going to start a minor league game that morning. He will pitch four innings or 60 pitches.
The Twins will head to the east coast of Florida on Sunday to play Washington at the new facility Washington is sharing with Houston, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Santiago will make his final start before the veteran lefthander leaves to join Team Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic.
La VELLE E. NEAL III