After missing 80 games due to a suspension for PEDs in 2015, Ervin Santana returned to form last season and gave Minnesota the reliable top-of-the-rotation starter they expected after he signed a four-year, $54 million contract. Santana missed a few weeks in May due to a sore back, but he found his form as the weather warmed. He had a 2.65 ERA and 8.25 K/9 after the All-Star break. Santana had his best average fastball velocity in six years, put up a decent strikeout rate (7.4 K/9) and had decent control (2.63 BB/9). His success didn't translate to many wins, however, as Minnesota's anemic offense and poor fielding gave him little support. He should be poised to offer some stability again at the top of Minnesota's rotation and perhaps in stretches as a fantasy No. 5 starter, but counting on him as anything more in mixed leagues will burn aggressive bidders. Note his 3.81 FIP as a palpable downside.
Santana will start Saturday against Team USA in the WBC, MLB.com reports. Santana will make his 2017 debut for Team Dominican Republic after replacing Bartolo Colon in the designated pitching pool earlier in the week. The Twins' likely Opening Day starter, Santana has not allowed a run in five Grapefruit League innings (two starts) this spring. He will oppose Danny Duffy on Saturday.
Santana will face minor leaguers at the Twins' complex Tuesday in order to stay on schedule during his off-day, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. The veteran right-hander, Minnesota's likely Opening Day starter, will keep his regular routine as he prepares for the regular season. Santana likely won't repeat the 3.38 ERA he spun in 2016 but should chew up innings at a serviceable level of quality.
Manager Paul Molitor implied Friday that Santana will be the Twins' opening day starter, Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports. After a solid season with Minnesota last year, the Twins will be looking for Santana to lead their rotation once again in his third year with the team. The 34-year-old made 30 starts for Minnesota in 2016, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.3 WAR, which was the second-highest of his career. If Santana can stay healthy, he has a good chance to be an above-average starter for a rebuilding Twins team.
Santana pitched five innings, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out three Royals in a no-decision Wednesday. In his final start of the regular season, the 33-year-old veteran got the hook after just 77 pitches. Santana's season ends with a 3.38 ERA over 181 innings. The last Twins' pitcher to have comparable stats was Johan Santana in 2007 (3.33 ERA in 219 innings). His seven wins tied his career-worst total (2015 and 2007), but Santana's ERA and 1.22 WHIP are among the best marks of his 12-year career.
Santana will make his final scheduled start Wednesday against Kansas City, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Manager Paul Molitor had given him the option to skip his final start to reduce his workload, but he plans to pitch as planned.