FORT MYERS, FLA. – Paul Molitor addresses his team before every spring training workout. But his message on Friday was drastically different.
The manager informed the club that righthander Ervin Santana had been suspended for 80 games for taking Stanozolol.
Everyone was stunned.
"It kind of hit everyone on the blind side," Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said.
Afterward, Trevor Plouffe walked up to Santana and gave him a hug, starting a procession of players reaching out to Santana, who got a little emotional.
"He began to tear up," outfielder Torii Hunter said.
Teams liken themselves to families. In this case, they rallied around someone whose actions deeply affect the family. Righthander Mike Pelfrey, who will replace Santana in the rotation, mentioned that Santana's five shutout innings on Thursday against Boston excited the club, so to suddenly not have him for half the season was startling.
"He's in our clubhouse now so he's one of our brothers now and we support him," Pelfrey said. "Nobody is perfect. Everyone deserves a second chance, and we'll look forward to having him when he comes back."
If there's any resentment toward Santana in the clubhouse, it's being suppressed for now. But the Twins know they need to move forward and not worry about him until he can return to the team in early July. There's a season to start and a division rival in Detroit waiting for them in Comerica Park.
Good teams don't let setbacks linger.
"He's our teammate. He's one of us," Mauer said. "We have to show him that we're here for him. It's a tough thing all the way around. Can see how hard it is for him. We would love to have him for these 80 games but we don't so we have to make an adjustment."
How will the Twins do that?
Tommy Milone beat out Pelfrey and Trevor May for the No. 5 spot in the rotation after a good competition. So the Twins didn't have to scramble to find a replacement.
Pelfrey — who in fans' eyes might be the least appealing of Molitor's options — was the next man up. A disappointment in his two seasons with the club, Pelfrey is healthy this spring. He has added a split-fingered changeup to his repertoire and has had success in spring training games, posting a sleek 1.15 ERA.
So Pelfrey will be the No. 5 starter, with Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson and Milone lined up in front of him.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said the choice of Pelfrey was simple.
"He pitched well enough to get that assignment," Ryan said. "He had a good spring. I didn't think it would be fair to him if I went out and got somebody else. But he had a good spring."
May was 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in camp, surging late to make things interesting. For the next couple of weeks — until pitchers can accumulate a track record — May stands to be the next pitcher up if needed.
The next group of pitchers would be other starters at Class AAA Rochester, such as righthander Alex Meyer and lefthanders Taylor Rogers and Jason Wheeler. Once the minor league season begins, the pecking order can change. It will come down to whoever is pitching the best if the Twins need to call someone up.
As of now, the Twins have not thrown out their nets to look for starting pitching.
"We have people inside the organization," Ryan said, "but you always have to stay concerned about it, there's no question. You always have to keep an eye out."
As for Santana, he's expected to remain in Florida during the suspension. He's allowed to work out at the Century Link Sports Complex during the suspension and, if he agrees to it, can go on a 16-day minor league rehabilitation stint.
Santana also was the third positive test for the drug Stanozolol in eight days. Major League Baseball, as it usually does, is checking for a common link.
While Santana waits on the sidelines, the pressure is on the pitching staff to make up for loss of someone who has won 119 games in his career.
"Erv is a big piece, no doubt. We'll be excited when he comes back in July," Gibson said. "As a pitching staff we just have to go out and do our job, and that's what it's up to. I wouldn't say there's any added pressure. Just go out there and pitch. When it's your day get the job done."