ST. LOUIS – Under terms of his 80-game suspension, Ervin Santana might be activated Friday for minor league games in preparation for his return to the major leagues. So Santana will join the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings that day, then start Saturday’s game against Louisville, Twins pitching coach Neil Allen said Monday. He’ll be limited to six innings or 90 pitches.
“There have been no setbacks in his preparation,” Allen said. “He’s going really good.”
Santana, suspended three days before Opening Day after the anabolic steroid Stanozolol was detected in his system, will make three starts for the Red Wings, including June 25 at Pawtucket and June 30 in Rochester, again against Pawtucket. He will remain with the Red Wings until his suspension is lifted July 4, while the Twins are in Kansas City, and make his 2015 debut against the Royals on July 5.
The 32-year-old righthander has been pitching in intrasquad games at the Twins’ extended spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., since mid-May.
“Every report we’ve gotten says he’s pitching well, looks really sharp,” Allen said. “We’ve got it all mapped out now, so he’ll be ready to go when he gets here.”
Method to the madness
Byron Buxton is changing things about the Twins. Even the order in which they bat.
The rookie center fielder batted ninth Monday, with pitcher Trevor May — who had never been to the plate in the majors, nor any level since he was in the Phillies organization in 2012 — batting eighth.
The reason is pretty simple: Buxton’s speed could change a game, and Twins manager Paul Molitor doesn’t want the pitcher coming up behind him.
“I don’t want to inhibit what he can do on the bases because of where he’s hitting in the lineup,” Molitor said. “He’s a threat to a large enough degree, I want to free him up and not have him in front of the pitcher.”
Molitor said he thought about the move when the Twins were in Pittsburgh last month. “Buxton kind of changed that dynamic for me,” he said. “It can burn you. … [If] Trevor May comes up with two on and two out in the second inning, you’ve got to live with it.”
Search for velocity
The Twins aren’t concerned about Phil Hughes’ loss of velocity and effectiveness this season. In fact, Allen said, “it’s kind of impressive the way he’s used different thoughts and different ideas in order to get people out.”
Hughes said Sunday that “I haven’t had my stuff all year, and I’m trying to find ways to get around it. … I have to have faith in the fact that it’ll come back eventually.”
Allen has that faith, too. “A lot of guys go through this in spring training. It’s hard on him right now, but there’s nothing wrong mechanically, there’s nothing wrong with his shoulder, elbow, anything like that,” the pitching coach said. “He’s just in this funk. He’s gone through it before, and it eventually goes away.”
The Twins have no plans to skip a start or give Hughes extra rest, Allen said, though Molitor said, “he’s thinking about what he can do to change his routine between starts to try to find that little extra on his ball that he doesn’t feel he has right now.”
Jordan Schafer is getting better. Ricky Nolasco isn’t.
Schafer, out three weeks because of a sprained ligament in his right knee, has improved, Molitor said, though not enough to begin a rehab assignment.
Nolasco, dealing with an impingement in his right ankle since May 31, still can’t pitch normally without feeling pain in the ankle.