KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ervin Santana has arrived in Missouri, but he’s not allowed to be at Kauffman Stadium tonight as the Twins play Game No. 80 — the final game of his steroids suspension. Under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, Santana must be placed on the roster tomorrow, and the Twins are planning an announcement after the game to make room.
Presumably, that will mean sending a pitcher to Class AAA, though not necessarily a starter. It’s possible the Twins will remove a reliever instead, in order to put off a final decision about what the starting rotation will look like with Santana in it. That decision, manager Paul Molitor said, “is coming close to finalized,” but 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.”
Santana, suspended three days before Opening Day after testing positive for the steroid stanozolol, will make his Twins debut Sunday, and Phil Hughes will open the homestand Monday against Baltimore. Beyond that, Molitor said, the Twins aren’t ready to say.
Meanwhile, the Twins have Aaron Hicks back in the lineup tonight, after he was activated from the disabled list, having recovered from the strained right forearm he suffered in mid-June. Hicks takes the place of Shane Robinson, who left the team to be with his eight-month-old daughter Harper, who underwent emergency surgery in Boston on Thursday. Harper was born with a stomach condition 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, who doesn’t expect Robinson to return before Sunday, at the earliest. “When you have an eight-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.”
As for Hicks, he’s just glad to be back, and he believes the Twins will be happy to see Santana back, too. Hicks was in center field for Santana’s final minor-league tuneup on Tuesday, when he pitched eight shutout innings. How did Santana look? “He looked goooood,” Hicks said, clearly impressed.
Here are the lineups for tonight’s game: