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Twins' Santana returns to DL with finger discomfort

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) sits in dugout during a recent game. Santana will go back on the disabled list, the Twins announced Sunday, Aug. 19. Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—If this is it for 2018—and possibly for his Minnesota Twins career as well—how will Ervin Santana look back at his fourth season with the club?

"Well, ups and downs," the 35-year-old right-hander said Sunday, Aug. 19, after landing back on the 10-day disabled list with discomfort in his surgically repaired right middle finger. "For me 2018 was an up and down year. A lot of bad experiences happened to me."

Saddled with a career-worst 8.03 earned run average through five starts since returning July 25 in Toronto, Santana will see Twin Cities hand specialist on Tuesday before determining the next step. It's possible he will be shut down for the year after needing nearly six months to return from Feb. 6 surgery.

With Santana's velocity diminished severely and gripping a baseball still proving problematic, he has allowed nine homers in 24 2/3 big-league innings this year. He was due to start again on Tuesday, Aug. 21, in Chicago.

The Twins would seem unlikely to pick up the $14 million team option for 2019. Instead, they figure to pay him a $1 million buyout while deciding whether to bring him back on a new deal.

"I don't know when the next time he'll pitch is going to be," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's a combination of some discomfort and I don't think it's working quite as well. We all see how it's been going to this point. I'm not sure where it's going to go from here."

Since signing a four-year, $55 million deal with the Twins in December 2014, Santana has gone 30-25 with a 3.65 earned run average in 85 starts. That run includes an 80-game steroid suspension in 2015, 525 1/3 total innings and a 16-win all-star season in 2017 that ended with a quick exit in the American League wild-card loss at Yankee Stadium.

Over the past four seasons Santana has provided a total of 7.0 wins above replacement, as measured by Fangraphs.com. That ranks 57th among 140 qualified starters in that span.

Kyle Gibson leads the Twins with 7.5 fWAR since the start of 2015.

"Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn't feel good," Santana said of his finger. "It's very tough for me and obviously for the team too because instead of helping the team, you hurt the team. You can't throw the fastball where you want it or your slider where you want it."

Gonsalves on deck

Control problems seemingly fixed, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves will be recalled to start against the Chicago White Sox at home on Monday night, Aug. 20. He will become the fourth pitching prospect to make his big-league starting debut for the Twins this season, joining Fernando Romero, Zack Littell and fellow 2013 draftee Kohl Stewart.

"I was shocked," Gonsalves, 24, said of getting the news late Saturday, Aug. 18. "I couldn't really explain it."

He called his grandmother back home in San Diego, "shared some tears with her" and set in motion a whirlwind that will see 30 to 40 friends and family members fly in for the occasion. Gonsalves, rated the Twins' top pitching prospect heading into the season, is 12-3 with a 2.76 earned run average in 120 2/3 combined innings at the top two minor-league levels this year.

His nine-inning walk rate remains 4.8, 33 percent above his career norm of 3.6, but a mental adjustment helped him cut his walk total to nine over his past five starts (30 1/3 innings).

"I was effectively wild, not mixing in a whole lot of hits," Gonsalves said. "It was more of a mental block instead of mechanical."

The former fourth-round pick has averaged one strikeout per inning this year despite a fastball that only occasionally touches 90 mph. His changeup has become a reliable second option and he's added a split-finger pitch.

"I'm not overpowering but I have four pitches I can mix in the strike zone pretty consistently," he said. "Stick to your game. It's still baseball. We're getting to play a kid's game. Simple as that."

Briefly

Twins third-base coach Gene Glynn vacated his usual post due to illness, the team announced. Glynn was in the home clubhouse Sunday morning, but Jeff Smith switched over from first base to coach third with assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez manning the first-base coach's box.

According to ESPN, second baseman Logan Forsythe cleared revocable waivers and is now eligible to be traded to any of the 29 other teams. Traded players must be in their new organization by Aug. 31 in order to be postseason-eligible.

Outfielder Robbie Grossman was returned from his three-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester. He took the place of outfielder Johnny Field, who still has two more option years after the current season.

Reliever Alan Busenitz was recalled from Triple-A for the fourth time this season and the seventh time since making his debut in June 2017.

Monday's original starter Jose Berrios, on pace for a career-high 203 innings, will get pushed back a day with Gonsalves' arrival.