Fernando Romero felt he was making incremental progress in his drive to establish himself as a major league starter.
“I’ve been getting more experience, feeling comfy,” he said.
But his next lesson will come at Class AAA Rochester, as the Twins sent him down after Saturday’s 9-6 loss to Texas to call up reliever Alan Busenitz to prop up a beleaguered bullpen. Romero is 3-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 10 big-league starts, showing a big arm that should be part of the Twins’ immediate future. In 51⅓ innings, he walked 19 and struck out 44.
“There’s been a lot of good things for him,” manager Paul Molitor said. “A young man who’s still learning how to use his skills at the best level up here and learning control of the game.”
Busenitz has a 1.95 ERA for the Red Wings and recently had a scoreless streak of 21⅓ innings. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Wednesday.
Now the Twins need a starter for Thursday’s game against the White Sox in Chicago. Righthander Aaron Slegers (5-4, 3.28 ERA at Rochester) is in line to pitch that day. Because of Monday’s off day, the Twins could pitch Jake Odorizzi in that spot and move Jose Berrios to Friday. Then the Twins would need a starter Saturday against the Cubs, but it seems unlikely they would trot out a minor league call-up to pitch at Wrigley Field.
Eventually, that spot in the rotation will go back to Romero, once the 23-year-old is ready.
“I mean, there’s no sorry, just something that happens in baseball,” he said. “At some point you’re not waiting for it, but all you have to do is handle the situation and get back to work. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
From out of town …
It was another day to spend more time talking about players who weren’t at Target Field than about the ones that were. Jorge Polanco, Ervin Santana and Byron Buxton are taking steps towards returning to the Twins.
Polanco, whose 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs is scheduled to end July 2, will be the designated hitter Sunday at Class A Fort Myers, his first official game action of 2018. Polanco had been playing in extended spring training games while working on fielding drills. But he was slowed a couple weeks ago when he injured his right index finger, then had it get infected.
Polanco will participate in Santana’s batting practice session Monday, then start at shortstop for the Miracle on Tuesday.
Will a week be enough for Polanco? Once his suspension ends, he has to be put on the Twins’ active roster or placed on the disabled list.
“We have the opportunity to see how this time goes, whether we advance him from Fort Myers up to try to get him some games somewhere else,” Molitor said. “We’re going to have to wait and see where we’re at. We don’t have a lot of options when we get to that date.”
Santana under 90 mph
Molitor clarified his statement Friday when he said Santana threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session.
“It was 45 and not 35, and I don’t think he hit 90 miles per hour with velocity, from what I can gather,” Molitor said. “So we’re trying to see where he’s at after Monday, maybe have an increased session another day.”
Santana, in rehabilitation following surgery on his right middle finger, has been trying to regain the feel for his pitches, but the process has been longer than intially thought for the All-Star righthander. Molitor, however, didn’t sound alarmed.
“It’s been a bit of a journey,” Molitor said. “It went from him coming into camp ready to go, to the setback of realizing that this thing needed to be repaired. I can’t say I’m surprised, just I think he was so worried about feel of the ball and the grip here for a long time, hopefully we’re just about over that hurdle. That might free him up mentally to go ahead and not have any inhibition about letting it go.”
Buxton belts one
Buxton hit a three-run homer Friday for Class AAA Rochester during his rehab assignment after fracturing his left big toe. Even more interesting is that Buxton is using a leg kick again.
It’s not as big a leg kick as the one he tried out a couple years ago before he junked it last season. But he is working on adjustments at the plate after batting .156 through 28 big-league games.
Buxton had the day off Saturday.