TORONTO – Mitch Garver had never caught Ervin Santana before, not last year, not in a bullpen session, never. But he wasn’t worried about working with such an experienced veteran, because Joe Mauer had already told him what to expect.
“It’s like driving a Ferrari,” Mauer told Garver, and the rookie catcher found that to be the case. “You let the guy do his work, and you know what you’re going to get. He’s going to be solid for you, he’s going to compete. And that’s what we got.”
Santana admitted he was nervous about taking a major league mound for the first time since last October’s wild-card game, but the anxiousness faded after the first inning — even though the Blue Jays were hitting his 89-mph fastball hard.
“After that I settled down, took a deep breath and went back to work,” said Santana, out since February after surgery to remove calcium deposits on the middle finger of his pitching hand. “It was very exciting. I was very happy. Five innings, three runs, it was good. I’ll take it.”
Of course, the Twins will expect a little more than that once he builds up a few more innings. Toronto had a hit in each of his five innings, for instance, and scored in three of them. But Paul Molitor declared himself satisfied, too.
“Ervin was good.It was probably a bit of feeling his way, even though he’s been here a long time,” the Twins manager said. “He looked pretty comfortable to me. Most of the pitches were there. It was good to see him out there.”
Garver said Santana had problems locating his fastball, but he was ready for that, adding, “Once we realized that, we moved on and went to some of his strengths,” like changeups and sliders. Santana threw 97 pitches, 60 of them for strikes, and whiffed five batters.
Rotation in flux
The trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Twins seem to be transparent in their intention to deal away a starting pitcher. The most obvious tip-off stands about 6-3, throws lefthanded and has no idea when he will pitch next.
Adalberto Mejia is still with the Twins, two days after throwing 97 pitches in a victory against the Blue Jays, even though the Twins clubhouse now contains five other more-established starting pitchers.
Molitor alluded to the possibility of a trade Wednesday, even as he tactfully declined to explain the abundance of starting pitchers. “I understand the question, but you also understand where we’re at — late in July,” he said “We’re just going day by day to see what happens here. And we will adjust accordingly as we need to.”
The Twins also have not identified their starting pitcher for Sunday’s game at Boston, a day when both Mejia and Jose Berrios will be ready to start. “I really can’t clarify that,” Molitor said, “because nobody knows what’s going to happen.”
If a trade doesn’t happen, the Twins will need another roster spot soon anyway. Addison Reed, whose Tuesday bullpen session was a success, is ready to be activated from the disabled list, Molitor said, and the move figures to come while the Twins are in Boston.
• Center fielder Byron Buxton could be activated from the minor league disabled list Thursday, Molitor said. Buxton, sidelined since suffering a sprained left wrist on July 12, took batting practice with Class AAA Rochester on Tuesday and planned to again Wednesday before the Twins make a decision about his status.
• The Blue Jays have been promoting a bobblehead night next month, featuring the likenesses of three heroes of their 1993 World Series championship: Roberto Alomar, John Olerud and Molitor. “I didn’t see [the ad] during the game. I did see it in the elevator,” Molitor said. “Hopefully, it’s a younger version.” Does a player get paid when a team puts his likeness on a promotion like that? “No. They own you,” the manager joked. “We’ll just get some bobbleheads.”