After a third straight miserable start by Joe Mays last Saturday,
the Twins finally moved lefthander Johan Santana from the bullpen
to their beleaguered rotation. Despite a combined 10-5 record and
2.83 ERA as a spot starter over the last two seasons, Santana had
been considered by manager Ron Gardenhire to be more valuable as
a long reliever. Several factors convinced him otherwise.
At week's end Twins starters averaged six innings per outing and
had a 5.00 ERA (10th in the league). What's more, the
cash-strapped club was unlikely to make a significant acquisition
before the July 31 trading deadline, and it needed a spark on the
heels of trades that brought second baseman Roberto Alomar and
outfielder Carl Everett to the White Sox.
Ever since Santana was recalled from Triple A Edmonton in May
2002, he has been lights out. Last year the 24-year-old power
pitcher led the Twins in strikeouts (137, even though he was
fifth on the team in innings). Also, among pitchers with at least
100 innings, his 11.38 K's per nine innings ranked second in the
majors behind Randy Johnson. In spring training this year Eric
Milton went down with a knee injury, but instead of moving
Santana into the rotation then, Minnesota traded for Kenny Rogers
(7-4, 4.87 ERA). The decision angered Santana, who vowed to prove
he deserved to be a starter.
"We know a lot of people have been waiting to see [Santana in the
rotation]," says Gardenhire. "We'll see if he can pick us up."
Santana will get his chance Friday when he's scheduled to start
against the Angels.