KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Aaron Hicks returned from Rochester on Friday, and he brought with him a firsthand scouting report on Ervin Santana’s eight shutout innings last Tuesday.
“He looked good,” Hicks said, lowering his voice to emphasize the adverb. “He was throwing everything for strikes, definitely pounding the zone. I had a really good view [from center field]. I was enjoying it.”
The Twins believe they will too, now that the veteran righthander, a 119-game winner who was the Twins’ major offseason free agent acquisition, is eligible to return. As the Twins prepared to play game No. 80 on Friday, Santana checked into the team’s hotel across town. At the game’s final out, Santana’s steroids suspension had officially been served.
Under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, the 32-year-old righthander, the Twins’ major off-season free agent acquisition who failed a test for the steroid stanozolol, must be placed on the 25-man roster. Alex Meyer, who allowed five runs in two appearances out of the bullpen, was returned to Rochester, where he will remain a reliever, after Friday’s game. On Sunday, the Twins will get to see what they paid $55 million for finally.
“It’s really exciting. It’s like adding an All-Star at the trade deadline,” said fellow starter Kyle Gibson. “I think we’ll all be glad to have him here.”
Manager Paul Molitor hasn’t sensed any bitterness about Santana’s failed drug test and abrupt departure just before Opening Day.
“[He’s a] rule-breaker, yes, because he was suspended. I don’t know the specifics of how all that transpired. I know as well as anybody, it’s good to get second chances,” Molitor said. “He’s handled it properly. He’s expressed remorse to some degree and paid his dues, which is a tough penalty, to miss half a big-league season. I’m going to welcome him back. I hope everyone else does the same.”
Molitor said he doesn’t expect Santana to address the team, but he has no objection if he wishes to. And while he and General Manager Terry Ryan’s decision about whose spot in the rotation Santana will take “is coming close to finalized,” the Twins don’t want to put anything in motion before they have to.
The uncertainty has produced no tension in the clubhouse that Molitor can detect, he said. “It’s no secret. Guys who have been pitching know that we’re going to be forced to do something,” Molitor said. “They all know that between Terry and myself and my staff, we’re going to try to do what’s best for the team overall. I hope we don’t have too many issues with that.”
Hicks replaces Robinson
Hicks was activated from the disabled list Friday, having recovered from the strained right forearm he suffered in mid-June, to take the place of Shane Robinson, who was placed on the family emergency list. Robinson left the team to be with his 8-month-old daughter Harper, who underwent emergency surgery in Boston on Thursday.
Harper was born with a stomach abnormality that has kept her hospitalized virtually since she was born.
“My message was, ‘I know that you feel committed to this team. Don’t ever think anyone is questioning your desire to be a part of this. You’re doing the right thing; take as much time as you need,’ ” said Molitor. “When you have an 8-month old daughter, it’s got to be heavy to carry, to come around here and try to do your work. The right thing is to go support her and be with his wife.”