Ervin Santana struck out five of the first six Jumbo Shrimp batters he faced in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday, retired the first 10 hitters in a row, and gave up only a bunt single and a two-run homer in his five-inning stint for the Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts. His 63-pitch outing, which included no walks, was easily the longest and most effective of his rehab starts, and might finally signal concrete progress in his recovery from February finger surgery.
The 35-year-old Santana’s next start will be Sunday in Scranton, Pa., for Class AAA Rochester, Twins manager Paul Molitor said, and another positive outing might give the Twins reason to add him to the roster after the All-Star break, or at least set a target date for the end to his rehab assignment.
“It’s kind of like his spring training, building up. We’re going to have to think about when the right time will be,” Molitor said.
A spot in the rotation could be easily arranged for the 2017 All-Star, considering the Twins have used three different pitchers in the fifth-starter role, and the latest aspirant, rookie Aaron Slegers, retired only four batters in his abbreviated start Tuesday.
Still, Molitor said, the Twins’ rotation has been relatively stable even without their ace, an encouraging development considering the Twins’ recent history. They entered Tuesday with a 4.23 ERA among the starters, eighth-best in the American League, and a half-run improvement on last season’s 4.73.
“We haven’t really seen that a lot the last few years,” Molitor said. “We all know how many starters we’ve gone through. The fact that they’ve all been healthy and taken the ball, especially the top four guys, that’s been a good sign for us.”
With Eddie Rosario a long shot to win the Final Vote contest onto the AL All-Star team — he’s up against players from the Red Sox and Yankees, after all — the Twins called upon a local celebrity to endorse his candidacy.
Becca Kufrin, a Prior Lake native who is now the star of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” came to Target Field to take part in the Twins’ “Would you accept this Rosie?” campaign on Rosario’s behalf. Kufrin posed for publicity photos with Rosario — who dressed in a tuxedo for the occasion — and met several of the Twins’ players. She also threw out the first pitch, with Rosario serving as catcher and then presenting her with a rose instead of the baseball.
“I hope it works. We’re going to do what we can,” Molitor said of the campaign, which Rosario’s teammates have adopted with gusto. “We know we’re up against some tough odds, with bigger markets and maybe bigger names [such as Boston’s Andrew Benintendi and the New York Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton]. But we’ll do our part.”
Durable and dependable
Molitor marveled at the selection of Royals catcher Salvador Perez to his sixth All-Star Game next Tuesday.
“Gosh, he catches a lot. It feels like he’s been around forever, and how old is he? Twenty-eight?” Molitor said of Perez, who has caught at least 115 games in each of the past five full seasons, which leads the American League. “He’s built to last — that frame, that size. He influences how I manage games, because I know how he can handle the baseball and throw people out. … Catching’s not the most deep position in our game anymore. It’s tough to find those guys.”
• Eight Twins players staged a Wiffle ball home run derby for fans on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis during the Tuesday lunch hour.