Kansas City, Mo. – Don’t do bad things, Ervin Santana says he told his children while serving his suspension. And on the day he returned to baseball, he implied that he doesn’t think he had, either.
Santana was in a Twins uniform Saturday for the first time since being informed April 3 that he had tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol and was being suspended for 80 games. Laughing with teammates and smiling at everyone, it was clear as he rejoined the Twins how happy he is to be back and how eager he is to pitch again.
Everything else? A little less clear. But Santana seems OK with that, too.
Asked during a five-minute dugout interview if he did a “bad thing,” as he put it, Santana smiled and shot back, “What do you think?” Told that the media doesn’t know what happened, he replied: “Me neither. So just leave it right there. It’s in the past, and I’m just moving forward. I’m happy to be back.”
No regrets, he said, “not at all, not at all.” And that was about it for the topic of steroids.
Santana said he spent the past three months mostly with his wife, Amy, and their two young children, not exactly a prison sentence. He lost roughly $7 million in salary, but he said: “I just missed the team. That’s the tough part, but I’m back and just can’t wait to pitch.”
The Twins can’t wait for that part, either. Manager Paul Molitor, who will send Santana to the mound on Sunday against the Royals, said he senses excitement in the clubhouse for the addition of a pitcher they enjoyed meeting during spring training. “He’s an easy guy to like, personality-wise, teammate-wise, work habit-wise,” Molitor said. The Twins heard “nothing but good things when we signed him. He’s an easy guy to like, and I think that helps.”
Added third baseman Trevor Plouffe: “He fit right in. He was one of the guys [during spring training]. I think everyone is happy he’s coming back. And we know he’s someone who can help us win, that’s the important thing. He did his time, and now he’s here to help us get to the playoffs. That’s exciting.”
It would be, though Santana, under terms of baseball’s PED policy, wouldn’t be able to take part this year, which he said bothers him. “It’s tough. But at the same time, I’ll be cheering for them and wish the best for our team,” the 32-year-old, 10-year veteran said. “We just have to focus on what we’re doing right now, and then when that time comes, we figure it out.”
Speaking of figuring things out, shortstop Danny Santana said that’s one reason he’s glad to see his fellow Dominican back with the team. The Twins have several players from Latin American countries, and Santana figures to be something of a leader. “Sometimes we young guys need to know something. We can go to ballplayers who we can ask and see what they think,” Danny Santana said. “It’s good to have a Spanish-speaking ballplayer to talk to. We missed him. We can learn from him. He’s got a lot of years in the big leagues.”
He will have three and a half with the Twins, at least according to the $55 million contract he signed in December. Santana pitched 211 innings for Kansas City in 2013, so the Royals know how useful he can be.
“He had a great year for us when he was here. He developed a changeup here that was really a good pitch for him,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Beyond that, just the professionalism he brought to the field every day was great — you knew he was going to go deep into games, you knew he would not get rattled even if he gave up a couple runs early on. He’s a veteran pitcher who can eat up innings. He’ll make [the Twins] even more dangerous.”
If so, it will be easy for the Twins to forget about his three-month absence, about the rule he broke, however it happened.
“I think judgment is dangerous,” Molitor said. “I don’t know what these guys do when they go back to their hotels. We try to develop people in ways that leads to accountability in all things they do.”
That’s why he doesn’t plan to ask Santana for any specifics about the drug test, any details about what may have happened.
“My communication with him has been more about establishing a plan for him coming back, trying to be supportive in terms of knowing I’m interested in his well-being, in terms of recovering from this and getting back to being an active member of our team,” Molitor said. “I haven’t asked him specifically about what transpired. For me, it’s in the past.”
For Santana, too.