Twins righthander Ervin Santana has given up runs the first time through the batting order in each of his past three starts, including Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to Milwaukee.
The first three Brewers hitters reached base in the first inning, with runs scoring on Ryan Braun’s single and Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly.
“I just saw him having trouble getting the ball to the catcher’s glove, whether it was his fastball or slider,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Santana, the team’s Opening Day starter.
Santana said he had trouble finishing his pitches Tuesday, especially his slider. He has noticed teams trying to jump on him early in games and tried to prepare for it.
“I just have to be more aggressive,” said Santana, who is 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA in four starts.
Santana, who was sporting a new hairstyle sans his traditional dreadlocks, was able to put together three scoreless innings before Milwaukee scored three unearned runs off him in the fifth after Miguel Sano’s fielding error. But he was taken off the hook for the loss when the Twins tied the score in the eighth on home runs by Byung Ho Park and Eddie Rosario.
Molitor envisioned Max Kepler getting more playing time when the Twins called him up April 9 to replace the injured Danny Santana. But Kepler has appeared in only five games — getting seven plate appearances — since the 23-year-old German prospect was promoted from Class AAA Rochester.
It’s an example of how good intentions can be altered by unforeseen events. In this case, fellow outfielder Oswaldo Arcia started to produce, getting game-winning hits Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s kind of minimized the opportunity I’ve had to get Max in there,” Molitor said.
Kepler hasn’t played since Saturday and has not had a plate appearance since Thursday.
Polanco is back
Jorge Polanco joined the Twins after being called up to replace the injured Trevor Plouffe. Polanco, 22, was batting .286 with a home run and two RBI at Rochester while playing every game at second base.
Polanco, one of the Twins’ best prospects, was signed as a shortstop but has alternated between short and second in the minors. Now many in the organization believe he is best suited for second.
“I think with his skill set, I think he’s better at second base than the left side of the infield,” Molitor said. “Not that he won’t improve enough to be considered to do something like that down the road. I think [General Manager] Terry [Ryan] and I have had the discussion about getting [him] some outfield play this year, just to see.”
Outfield? Polanco continues to get stronger, and the Twins wonder if he can be more than a gap-to-gap hitter.
“Now he’s starting to look like he can be more than that,” Molitor said. “He’s gotten a lot stronger and he can put a charge into the ball.”
Polanco, a native of the Dominican Republic, was signed in 2009, and was part of the same international signing class as Kepler and Sano. Tuesday marked the first day all three were in the majors together.
More to come?
During TwinsFest, Ryan said the club thought catcher John Ryan Murphy had the potential to become a Jonathan Lucroy-type player. Lucroy is batting .277 for Milwaukee; Murphy is at .095.
Molitor said before the game that Murphy’s work with the pitching staff has been good. As for his hitting …
“His dad assured me the other day that he’s a much better hitter than we have seen so far,” Molitor said with a grin. “So take some solace in that.”
Sure enough, Murphy singled to center in his first at-bat Tuesday, his second hit of the season.