MILWAUKEE – The countdown to the arrival of Ervin Santana is on.
Santana on Tuesday will make the final of his three scheduled starts at Class AAA Rochester. That will put him on line to start July 5 at Kansas City. So the Twins have one week to figure out how to weave Santana into the rotation as the veteran righthander returns from an 80-game suspension for a positive steroids test.
Will someone be demoted to the bullpen or Rochester? Will the Twins try a six-man rotation? They could go to a six-man rotation, giving Santana two starts, until the All-Star break then reassess things.
“We have not finalized anything yet, but we have certainly talked about it,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “We haven’t gotten that deep into it because it usually takes care of itself and we will see how that goes. We have until about July 5 to worry about it. We will probably take our time.”
Baseball works in mysterious ways. Sometimes when a team is contemplating a roster move, something happens — injury, trade, etc. — that frees up a spot. That’s what Ryan meant when he spoke of things taking care of themselves.
But a couple of the current members of the rotation could ensure their immediate future with strong outings. Trevor May, for instance, lasted only one-third of an inning Friday.
Twins righthander Kyle Gibson got 13 ground ball outs in Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Brewers, when he pitched into the seventh inning to improve to 5-6 on the season, his first victory in six starts.
He ran into trouble in the third inning when leadoff hitter Jean Segura reached second on shortstop Danny Santana’s two-base throwing error. But Gibson stranded Segura on second. Gibson then threw first-pitch strikes to seven consecutive batters — and he needed just six pitches to get through the fifth.
“He’s got to trust his stuff. It’s just really good,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Gibson. “People don’t square him up a ton and he gets a lot of balls on the ground with the down low movement, especially with the sinker.”
Twins players on Friday cast their ballots for the July 14 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, and the consensus is that second baseman Brian Dozier and closer Glen Perkins should be the ones representing the team.
“I think we have more [worthy] than people think,” third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. “I think Perkins is an obvious choice. Dozier should be an obvious choice. There are a couple of guys under the radar who have really helped, the [Mike] Pelfreys, the [Blaine] Boyers. I voted for them all. How many will go, I don’t know.”
The Twins aren’t doing well in balloting as Thursday’s deadline approaches. The only position player to appear on the latest ballot update is Torii Hunter, and he’s 14th among outfielders. Players are selected through fan balloting, player balloting, managers’ picks and a special online vote to select the last player for each team.
Perkins, tied for the major league lead with 24 saves, should end up on the AL team for the third year in a row. Dozier leads AL second baseman in homers (by a ton) and extra-base hits but isn’t among the top five in votes. Kansas City’s Omar Infante, batting .236, leads in voting thanks to a ballot blitz by Royals fans.
Infante is followed by Houston’s Jose Altuve, Detroit’s Ian Kinsler and Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis. Altuve and Kinsler are having strong seasons, so if Infante wins the popular vote the chances of Dozier getting in decrease.
Aaron Hicks was supposed to work out at Class AAA Rochester on Friday and not play until Saturday but talked his way into the lineup.
“He wanted to play badly, which is a nice sign,” Ryan said.
Hicks is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Monday, and the Twins are willing to call him up if he looks ready after his weekend rehabilitation assignment.