Ervin Santana’s next step on the comeback trail.
Santana pitched 5 2/3 innings in his first start for Triple-A Rochester this time around. He gave up 3 earned runs on 2 homers and four total hits (7 strikeouts, 1 walk). Importantly, he logged 86 pitches and 60 strikes (70%), and he hit 91 mph with his fastball, according to Red Wings play-by-play announcer Josh Whetzel.
It’s not clear when Santana could rejoin Minnesota’s rotation, but the velocity and the pitch count could be seen as positives amid this crazy stop-and-start season for the veteran righty. Santana originally was expected back in late-April or early-May, and now it’s uncertain when he could be scheduled to pitch in the big leagues.
“There’s nothing in ink or pencil or whatever,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said when asked about the next step for last year’s staff ace. “Whether Ervin takes another start in Rochester, which I think is very possible, we’re just going to have to see how it goes [Sunday].”
A year ago he was an all-star. And now he’s rehabbing in the minors and probably hoping for a spot to open up in Minnesota’s starting rotation soon after the all-star break.
Technically Santana’s rehab assignment is up August 8, according to MLB rules and the team’s transaction log.
Once spot that could be worth watching: Lance Lynn is scheduled to start the second game after the break for Minnesota in Kansas City. That spot would come up one more time before the non-waiver trade deadline (July 26 at Fenway Park). If Lynn, a pending free agent, gets dealt before the trade deadline, the Twins would need another starter to add to the mix.
The other, perhaps easier switch would be to option Fernando Romero. He pitched Sunday’s game — same schedule as Santana — and was pulled after more hits and control trouble hurt him against the Rays. The Twins likely won’t need a fifth starter on the roster immediately after the break, and could instead opt for another position player to add to a thin bench.
(UPDATE: The Twins optioned Fernando Romero after Sunday’s start, and Aaron Slegers remains on the 10-day DL in the big leagues. Watch for the Twins to make a roster move before Friday’s game in Kansas City.)