Ervin Santana had arguably his best season at age 34, posting the second-lowest ERA (3.28) and second-most wins (16) of his 13-year career. He got off to a hot start, going 10-6 with a 2.96 ERA in the first half and making his second All-Star team. By staying healthy, he logged 30 more innings than he did in 2016, eclipsing the 200-inning mark for the sixth time. He parlayed a .245 BABIP (second lowest of his career) and 79.5 percent strand rate (highest of his career) to his best ERA since 2013, making up for the fact he was more homer prone (1.32 HR/9) than he had been in any season since 2012. This is why his 4.46 FIP paints a significantly less rosy picture than his ERA. Still, it's possible the flyball pitcher benefited from Byron Buxton's consistent presence in the outfield -- the center fielder led all outfielders with an MLB-best 25 Outs Above Average mark. Santana may not be able to duplicate last season's success, but he'll provide a steady innings-eating component at the top of Minnesota's rotation.
Santana underwent a capsular release and debridement procedure on the MCP joint in his right middle finger Tuesday. Santana experienced discomfort in the finger while throwing bullpen sessions to prepare for spring training. The injury is a result of the repeated stress inherent in pitching, rather than a single event, and is something Santana has dealt with in the past. The Twins expect Santana to require 10-to-12 weeks to recover from the procedure, which means he'll miss the first few weeks of the season, at least.
Santana will start Tuesday's Wild Card Game against the Yankees, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Twins' No. 1 hurler will take his talents to the Bronx with the hope of knocking off the Yankees to earn a berth in the American League Division Series against Cleveland. Santana posted a career-best 3.28 ERA and 16-8 record this year.
Santana pitched five scoreless innings with just four hits allowed and a single strikeout during Thursday's loss to Cleveland. He didn't factor into the decision. With Santana already announced as the Minnesota starter for the wild-card game next Tuesday, this was just a tune-up for the veteran righty. He cruised through five frames, throwing just 57 pitches and facing limited trouble. It's been another solid campaign for Santana, as he'll finish the 2017 regular season with 16 wins, a 3.28 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 7.1 K/9. Those numbers moved the fantasy needle in all settings.
Santana will take the mound for Tuesday's wild-card game against the Yankees or the Red Sox, Tom Withers of the Associated Press reports. This should come as no surprise, as Santana has been Minnesota's ace throughout the season, tossing 206.1 innings over the course of 32 starts in 2017, prior to Thursday's outing against the Indians. During that time, he's accumulated a 3.36 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while recording five complete games and three shutouts. The right-hander just faced the Yankees, who he will likely face Tuesday, giving up two earned runs off seven hits and one walk while striking out three in 5.2 innings. He will de deployed on normal rest following Thursday's start, and would only be available to start one game in the ALDS, were the Twins to advance.
Santana is scheduled to start Thursday's game against the Indians, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. It had been previously reported that Santana would next take the mound Friday against the Tigers. However, he'll draw a less-favorable matchup as the Twins plan to deploy him Thursday against Cleveland. Over his last three starts, Santana has posted a 2.41 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 18.2 innings.