MINNEAPOLIS — While most of his teammates spent the weekend resting, Danny Santana was back where it all began.
Back in Fort Myers, Fla., the Twins’ annual spring training resort and home of their Single-A affiliate the Fort Myers Miracle. Three times in four nights, Santana tested the left knee that cost him 17 games heading into Major League Baseball’s All-Star break.
Now, with a 10-game homestand to try and crawl out of the American League Central Division basement, Minnesota has its "igniter" back, manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"He was doing some things that were fun to watch (before the injury)," Gardenhire said Friday afternoon following his team’s first workout since before the All-Star Break, "so hopefully he’ll get back to that."
Those things include a team-best batting average of .328, a .488 slugging percentage, 16 RBI and six stolen bases. That rendered the rookie from the Dominican Republic a pleasant surprise that can play both the outfield and shortstop and hit at the top of Minnesota’s order.
The Twins plan to keep using him at multiple positions, Gardenhire said.
"We needed him back in that leadoff spot," second baseman Brian Dozier said. "He can do a lot of different things at the top of the order. Just what he does with the bat and not only with the bat but defensively, running down balls in center field, playing shortstop when we need him, he’s an exciting player to watch at the top of the order.
To make room on the roster, Minnesota optioned utility man Chris Herrmann back to Triple-A Rochester. The catcher/outfielder appeared in just one game during his most recent big-league stint, and that was only to pinch hit in the Twins’ July 13 win at Colorado.
"He didn’t get to do much," Gardenhire said of Herrmann, who’s batting .314 for Rochester but just .143 in 18 major-league games. "He’s playing very well at Triple-A, and he’s one of those guys we feel that at any time, we can go get him."
Santana went 0-for-11 with three strikeouts, a walk and a stolen base during his short rehab jaunt in Fort Myers. He declined comment following batting practice but looked comfortable swinging the bat and shagging fly balls in center field Friday afternoon.
Santana will lead off when the Twins meet the Rays on Friday night.
And the Twins sure could use a spark. Heading into this weekend’s three-game series against Tampa Bay, they’re in fifth in place in the Central and 10 1/2 games back of first-place Detroit.
"Hopefully he can pick back up," said Dozier, who ranks second in the majors with 69 runs scored. "I know he’s had two or three weeks when he’s been out, but talking with him, he feels good. He’s ready to go. We needed him back, and we got him back, so hopefully we’ll rattle off a few in a row here."
NOTES: General manager Terry Ryan says he won’t have a timetable for the return of injured first baseman Joe Mauer until he’s been cleared to participate in baseball activities. Mauer has been on the disabled list since July 2 with a right oblique strain . . . After consulting with both pitchers, Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson decided to swap Kevin Correia and Phil Hughes in the rotation. Hughes (10-5, 3.92 ERA) will pitch Saturday against Tampa, and Correia (5-11, 4.61) will close out the series Sunday at Target Field . . . Dozier didn’t attend the All-Star Game, instead choosing to spend Tuesday with his nieces and nephew at Mall of America. "I was probably more scared than they were" on the rides, Dozier said. . . . According to a press release from the Twins, 11.34 million people watched the All-Star Game on television, the event’s largest average audience since 2010 . . . Gardenhire was in the American League dugout Tuesday night and got to watch closer Glen Perkins close out the game with Kurt Suzuki catching. "There was a lot of really good moments," Gardenhire said. "And you know what? It was a good show." . . . The Twins held a full pitchers’ fielding practice in addition to batting practice Friday, their first day back from the break. . . . . . . Ryan also said starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco (right elbow strain) won’t pitch Tuesday but could be in line to make his next start after that. Yohan Pino (1-2, 4.39 ERA) would likely be optioned to make room on the roster for Nolasco (5-7, 5.90).