Twins all-star right-hander Ervin Santana underwent surgery on his right middle finger Tuesday, the team announced, and could be out until early May.
Santana, 35, experienced discomfort in the finger last week after ramping up his bullpen sessions in advance of spring training. He had dealt with the issue in the past, according to the team, and underwent an X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging exam at the end of the 2017 season.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana looks skyward with the ball before throwing against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
“It was determined at that time there was no injury to the tendon and an injection was the appropriate course of action,” the Twins said in a statement. “The injury is a result of repeated cumulative stress from pitching, not one acute event, and did not (resurface) again until this past week.”
At that point Santana was re-examined by Dr. Charles Melone in New York City, and surgery was recommended. The procedure is termed a capsular release/debridement to the metacarpophalangeal joint (or knuckle).
The Twins expect Santana to return to “major league game activity” in 10-12 weeks. That places his return, after a delayed ramp-up at spring training and extended spring training, somewhere between April 17 and the start of May.
Santana’s $14 million club option for 2019 would vest with another 200-inning season in 2018, plus a clean physical exam after the season. The Twins could still decide to pick up the option, which carries a $1 million buyout, even if it doesn’t vest.
The first part of the option requires him to work at least 400 innings in the final two guaranteed years of the four-year, $55 million contract he signed in December 2014. Santana led the Twins with 211 1/3 innings last season, when he went 16-8 with a 3.28 earned-run average, five complete games and three shutouts.
The latter two totals led the American League, while his ERA ranked fifth. Santana finished three innings behind Boston’s Chris Sale, the Cy Young Award runner-up, for most innings in the majors after posting his highest personal total since 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels.
Santana started and took the loss in the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium, lasting just two innings and failing to protect a 3-0 lead. Santana threw just 35 strikes on 64 pitches, walking two and giving up two home runs, as the Twins lost 8-4 in their first postseason appearance in seven years.
Voted the Twins’ most valuable pitcher by Twin Cities baseball writers the past two seasons, Santana told the Pioneer Press last month he “would be more than happy” if the Twins signed Yu Darvish or another high-profile free agent pitcher to join him atop the rotation.
Fellow right-handers Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are among scores of impact free agents who remain unsigned with Twins’ pitchers and catchers approaching their first spring workout on Valentine’s Day.
Per multiple sources, the Twins continue to show interest in a reunion with 31-year-old lefty Jaime Garcia. The veteran free agent won his only start for them last July before they flipped him on to the New York Yankees for two pitching prospects currently on their 40-man roster (Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns).
Garcia, who made $12 million last season, went 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA in 27 combined starts for three teams in 2017.
The Twins also have veteran right-handers Phil Hughes and Trevor May coming off surgery as potential rotation options behind Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia. Tyler Duffey, who spent last season in the bullpen, is expected to bid for a rotation spot this spring as well.
Santana, the Twins’ Opening Day starter the past two years, missed the first 80 games in 2015 after testing positive for steroids in his first spring after signing with the Twins. He said last month his 2019 status wasn’t on his mind and he was open to whatever his future held.
“I feel great but I’m not thinking about it,” he said. “I’d be happy to be in the Twin Cities again (in 2019). It’s my second home.”
The Twins announced 13 non-roster invitations to big-league camp with the chance for more, depending on additional signings.
Shortstop Nick Gordon, their first-round draft pick in 2014, tops the list, along with reliever Jake Reed and outfield prospect LaMonte Wade. Gordon and Reed were in big-league camp last spring as well.
Also invited were right-handers Myles Jaye and Michael Kohn; catchers Willians Astudillo, Brian Navaretto and Bobby Wilson; infielders Taylor Featherston, Gregorio Petit and Brock Stassi; and outfielders Nick Buss and Ryan LaMarre.
The Twins’ first full-squad workout is set for Feb. 19.
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