FORT MYERS, Fla. – There were travel arrangements to figure out, pitching plans to synchronize, two different front offices to satisfy. But ultimately, Paul Molitor suspects, Ervin Santana’s change of heart about pitching in the World Baseball Classic may have come down to something much simpler: Peer pressure.
“My gut feeling is that the players on those teams probably talk a lot,” Molitor said Monday after watching his best pitcher abruptly depart training camp. “I think players might have reached out to him, that’s my feeling — ‘C’mon, man, c’mon and have some fun with us.’ “
Makes sense, considering the Dominican Republic team, the WBC defending champions, is unbeaten entering Tuesday’s second-round game against Puerto Rico. Santana met the team charter Monday in Miami and flew to San Diego, where he will be in the dugout at Petco Park for that game.
“I think he’s real excited,” Molitor said.
And the Twins are probably a little concerned, having temporarily lost control over Santana’s schedule as he prepares for the 2017 season. Molitor said he hoped that Santana would pitch Tuesday’s game, since it matches up with his regular turn in Twins’ camp; Santana had been scheduled to throw five innings if a minor-league game.
But the Dominicans apparently plan to start Cardinals righthander Carlos Martinez on Tuesday, according to mlb.com, and save Santana for their Saturday game against Team USA, which could throw off the Twins’ plans.
‘‘We wanted him to stay on his schedule as close as possible. And for us, it meant Tuesday or [Thursday],” Molitor said. “A couple days [later], it makes it a little trickier for him to do what he has to do between now and Opening Day.”
Six pitchers cut
The Twins cut a half-dozen pitchers Monday.
Lefthander Mason Melotakis was sent to Class AAA Rochester, while righthanders Fernando Romero and Felix Jorge were sent to Class AA Chattanooga. In addition, a couple of pitchers not on the 40-man roster, lefthander Stephen Gonsalves and righthander Aaron Slegers, were assigned to minor league camp.
None of the six pitchers was expected to make the Twins’ 25-man roster, so the team decided it’s time to get them more regular innings as they prepare for the minor league season.
“Felix didn’t get a chance to pitch much, but we all realize he’s someone we think highly of,” Molitor said. As for Rosario, “it’s his first chance to start a season as a bullpen guy. He’s just got to figure out a routine and the differences between starting and relieving. We all see he’s got potential.”
A little extra
They didn’t get to keep, or even wear, a Team USA uniform during last week’s WBC exhibition game, but the four pitchers the Twins “loaned” to the national team to cover a couple of innings last week didn’t go away empty handed. Each player was paid $50 for the effort — enough to buy a Team USA hat.
Tuesday is the Twins’ final off day in Fort Myers. They will resume Grapefruit League play Wednesday against the Cardinals, with Tyler Duffey on the mound.