FORT MYERS, FLA. – Ervin Santana had not given up a run all spring. He hadn’t allowed a spring-training home run in nearly two years.
Santana did both on Thursday against Team Colombia. Yet he (and his manager) could hardly be more pleased with his performance.
The Twins’ Opening Day starter allowed a pair of runs in four innings but also struck out three, got six outs on ground balls and needed only 52 pitches to fulfill his four-inning target, as the Twins beat Colombia’s WBC team 10-7 at Hammond Stadium.
“The efficiency is there. He had a good day,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after the team won its sixth straight exhibition game, and second in a row against a World Baseball Classic-bound national team. “He was getting a lot of choppers down the third-base line, which means he got a lot of movement. … He does make it look easy, the way he goes about it.”
It wasn’t so easy for some of the other Twins pitchers, though closer Brandon Kintzler and lefthander Taylor Rogers each pitched a scoreless inning. Bullpen candidates Nick Tepesch, Michael Tonkin and Ryan O’Rourke all surrendered run as the teams combined for 17 runs and 24 hits.
Santana’s only hiccups came on an RBI single by Yankees infielder Donovan Solano and a solo home run by Phillies catching prospect Jorge Alfaro.
“It was the right pitch, a fastball away,” Santana said of the home run ball, the first he has allowed in spring training since March 18, 2015, a span of 36 innings. “He just got a good swing on it.”
Still, Santana was pleased with his third start of the spring.
“I was supposed to throw 65 pitches and I threw 52, so it was good. I got a lot of ground balls, a ground-ball double play, so it was good,” he said. As always, he said, his goal was to “throw strikes, get the ball down for the most part, and work fast.”
The Twins, who defeated Team USA 3-2 on Wednesday, are 4-1 all-time against WBC teams.
• When surgeon Dr. David Altcheck opened Alex Kirilloff’s right elbow on Wednesday, he found the ulnar collateral ligament completely torn. The 19-year-old outfielder has a new one now after successful Tommy John surgery. The Twins’ No. 1 pick from last summer will miss this season, spending it instead rehabbing the elbow at the Twins’ Fort Myers complex.
• Lefthanded reliever Mason Melotakis threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Thursday as he recovers from a strained oblique. Melotakis reported no soreness, but he is unlikely to pitch in a Grapefruit League game this spring.
Their WBC-related detour finished, the Twins return to Grapefruit League play Friday against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, Fla. It figures to be the first professional game that ever featured both Marlins All-Star Dee Gordon and his little brother, Twins shortstop prospect Nick Gordon.