HOUSTON – Ervin Santana is headed back to the Twins rotation.
The righthander will be activated from the 15-day disabled list in time to start Saturday in Chicago against the White Sox. Twins manager Paul Molitor made the announcement after Santana threw 30 pitches, with a break in the middle, during a simulated game Tuesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
“We are fairly confident that, on Saturday, he will be back on the mound for us,” said Molitor, who doesn’t expect any setbacks from Tuesday’s session.
No one swung a bat during the session, so Santana joked he was nearly perfect except for a walk to Oswaldo Arcia near the end.
“Mainly it was him proving to himself that he was ready to get back on the mound and go full-bore, even though it was only 30 pitches,” Molitor said. “We’ll probably have to be a little limited on Saturday as far as pitch count is concerned.”
The Twins are eager to get Santana back on the mound. Because of injuries to Santana and Kyle Gibson — plus the move of Tommy Milone to the bullpen — the Twins have had Tyler Duffey, Jose Berrios and Alex Meyer in the rotation.
The Twins’ rotation for the weekend series in Chicago: Ricky Nolasco on Friday, Santana on Saturday and Duffey on Sunday.
Pressly’s role changes
Reliever Ryan Pressly missed nearly three months last season because of a lat strain, so the Twins wanted to be careful with him and not have him pitch in many late-inning situations.
It didn’t take long for them to change their minds.
Injuries and performances have forced a bullpen shake-up, and Pressly is getting a chance to show he can be the eighth-inning setup man before the closer takes over in the ninth.
“I like it, the pressure situations and stuff,” said Pressly, a former Rule 5 pickup who entered Tuesday with a 3.31 ERA through 13 games. “Trying to see if I can take the role and run with it.”
Pressly entered in the eighth inning Monday and struck out two of the three Astros he faced, throwing a fastball that reached 95 miles per hour on the radar gun and showing off a curveball that has become a real jackhammer for him.
On Sunday against the Tigers at Target Field, Pressly almost got out of the eighth unscathed, but B.J. Upton singled and scored from first on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar might have been able to throw out Upton at the plate with a quick relay, but couldn’t get the ball out of his glove.
The Twins initially shifted bullpen roles when closer Glen Perkins landed on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder. Now they have moved Pressly up as righthanders Trevor May and Casey Fien have struggled in some situations. Lefthander Fernando Abad, who has thrown 12 scoreless innings thus far this season, has helped stabilize the bullpen.
But Pressly’s promotion bears watching.
“He’s doing fine,” Molitor said. “He’s pitching well. He’s throwing hard. He’s got good breaking stuff. I think the biggest thing is that he thinks he belongs out there late in the game now. We’d like to get more opportunities to hold onto leads by setting up guys late. That’s a big formula in the game today, to be able to close out games in the latter third of the ballgame. And he’s a big part of that right now.”
Trevor Plouffe returned to the lineup Tuesday after recovering from a right intercostal strain. He also returned to the No. 5 spot in the batting order.
“We know the important role he plays on our team,” Molitor said.
Plouffe’s return means Eduardo Nunez was back on the bench despite batting .371 in 19 games, plus his first home run of the year during Monday’s victory. Molitor said Nunez will return to the utility role he had at the start of the season. Nunez batted .282 last season in the same role.
“I’m going to make sure I tell him that he did a heck of a job stepping in for us,” Molitor said, “and continue to find good matchups for him and spell our guys when it seems like the right thing to do.”
• Jose Berrios, at 21 years and 341 days old on Monday, became the youngest Twins starter to win a game since Francisco Liriano, who was 21 years and 339 days old when he beat Detroit on Sept. 30, 2005.