The sophomore season hasn’t been easy for the Twins’ standout rookies of 2014. Kennys Vargas batted .172 in April, managed only three home runs in 29 games and was sent to Class AAA Rochester.
Danny Santana has had similar problems. He’s batting only .235 this season after going 1-for-3 Tuesday in a 2-1 victory over Boston, has walked only twice but struck out 43 times, and has committed 10 errors in the field, third-most in the majors. But the Twins are far more confident Santana can regain his first-year form in the major leagues.
A demotion to Rochester “is not being considered,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. Even if he’s not the offensive catalyst he was a year ago, Ryan said, “we can use him in a lot of ways. You can pinch hit with him, you can DH, pinch run.”
The strikeouts are most problematic, because Santana can use his speed to reach base if he puts the ball in play — though not as well, so far, as he did last year, when he batted an amazing (and probably unsustainable) .405 on balls in play. This year, he’s hitting .324 (through Tuesday) when he makes contact.
“Last year, he put balls in play and got hits. This year, it’s been tougher for him,” manager Paul Molitor said. “But I still like it when he’s in there, because every time his name’s come around in a given inning, you feel like there’s something good that’s going to happen. I haven’t lost that feeling with him.”
Molitor also believes Santana deserves time to get used to his natural position again, after spending most of 2014 in center field. And he knows Santana feels pressure to repeat his rookie success. “He set the bar really high last year, and I think he is trying really hard to get back to that level. At the same time, he’s back in a position he hasn’t played in a long time. Which is tough, maybe the toughest position on the field.”
Especially since he’s working so hard, the manager said. “If anything, he’s one of those guys where we have to be careful in how much he wants to do on a given day. If fixing it by working is the solution, then that’s what he wants to try to do,” Molitor said. “So he’s working at it, he knows he’s got Terry and my and the staff’s support.”
The Twins held a moment of silence before Tuesday’s game in honor of Zacharie Schaubhut, a 15-year-old pitcher in the Bemidji Young Baseball league who died Sunday in a pickup game after being hit by a line drive.
Molitor also spoke about Schaubhut during his pregame news conference, saying “Those things are very tragic to hear about.”
Molitor, the father of four children, offered “our prayers and support” to the family on behalf of the Twins and added: “It’s one of those things that’s kind of unfathomable for people who aren’t there to imagine what those people are going through.”
• Tuesday’s game began at 8:31 p.m., an hour and 21 minutes late because of steady rain. It’s the first weather delay of the season at Target Field, and only the 15th in the stadium’s six-year history.
• Casey Fien threw only nine pitches, eight of them strikes, in retiring all three Durham hitters he faced Tuesday in his second rehab appearance for Rochester. Fien, recovering from a strained shoulder that has kept him out of action for all of May, will pitch again Wednesday and could be activated for this weekend’s series with Toronto.
• Oswaldo Arcia went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, but drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in that 2-1 Rochester loss. It was Arcia’s first action since injuring the flexor muscle in his right hip on May 3; he’s scheduled to remain with the Red Wings for at least the rest of the week.