KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first postseason game of Ervin Santana’s career was a win-or-you’re-done game against the Yankees, and he remembers thriving under the pressure. It was the deciding fifth game of the 2005 AL Division Series, and Santana, then a 22-year-old rookie, was called upon in the second inning to take over for the Angels starter — someone named Bartolo Colon — when the veteran developed soreness in his shoulder.
“Elimination games are fun,” Santana said, and his five-inning relief stint in that game was especially great, since he earned the victory and the Angels advanced to the ALCS. “All that matters is what you do right then, in that game. Nothing before that game matters.”
That’s the sort of attitude and experience, not to mention his strong 2017 season, that makes Santana the obvious choice to start this year’s AL wild-card game, should the Twins emerge three weeks from now with the playoff spot they’ve clung to for much of the past month.
Twins manager Paul Molitor agrees, and on Thursday, he sounded inclined to make it happen as he lays out his pitching plans for the rest of the season. Keeping Santana on an every-fifth-day schedule, despite a couple of off days between now and the Oct. 1 season finale, would mean Santana would be pitching on his normal rest in a potential Oct. 3 wild-card game.
“We’ve drawn up a couple of scenarios, [including] bringing Ervin back [next] Wednesday and skipping somebody,” Molitor said. “It’s due diligence to try to map it out all the way to the end, including that scenario.”
Which is fine by Santana, who hasn’t appeared in a postseason game since making four relief appearances against the Yankees in the 2009 ALCS. “Everybody is waiting for that moment,” Santana said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t believe we belong where we are right now. And that’s a good thing, because we trust in ourselves. We’re still there.”
Miguel Sano’s recovery from the stress reaction in his left shin suffered a minor setback Thursday at Target Field, Molitor said. Sano, out since Aug. 19 after fouling a ball off his leg, did some light running Wednesday, “and got through it,” Molitor said, “but [Thursday] he was sore from having done that for the first time.”
Sano had been scheduled to take batting practice on the field, Molitor said, “but we ended up limiting him to just hitting off the tee. We’ll see if we can get on the field [Friday].”
As Hurricane Irma roars toward south Florida, first base coach Jeff Smith’s wife and two sons have moved into a shelter in Naples, Fla. But that’s because Ronna Smith is in charge of the shelter, as principal of Corkscrew Middle School.
“We talked about what to do every day we were in Tampa this week, and we felt the right thing to do is to stay at the shelter. It’s a safe building,” Smith said. “Some nice friends boarded up our house [Thursday], and so Friday morning, she’ll open the [school] building for residents seeking refuge, and the family [including sons Cooper, 15, and Cutter, 10] will just hunker down there.”
Smith is one of many Twins players and employees affected by the hurricane. The team shut down its Fort Myers, Fla., headquarters Thursday, and hired buses to take the entire Class A Miracle team, eliminated Wednesday from the now-canceled Florida State League playoffs, to Atlanta to catch flights home. Any players headed to the Caribbean will be housed in Atlanta until they can get home, said General Manager Thad Levine.
The Twins’ Dominican complex, though, was used as a shelter as the storm passed the island Thursday, since several players, most of them Venezuelans, could not get flights. The Twins also offered to house any Dominican players who feel safer at the complex — which was designed to withstand hurricanes — and their families on the site.
“We extended the offer to players and all staff members in the country — if you feel more safe coming to the complex, we’re opening our doors. We have food and provisions there, and we’ve communicated that to everyone there,” Levine said.