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Santana rejoins Twins on eve of '18 debut

Buxton taking batting practice in Rochester; Reed close to return
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

TORONTO -- Right-hander Ervin Santana rejoined the Twins on Tuesday in advance of his season debut against the Blue Jays on Wednesday after missing nearly the first three months of the year because of surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right middle finger.

Santana was initially expected to be back in late April or early May, but he suffered a few setbacks, including ending his first rehab assignment in late May early. But he's healthy now and said he's excited to make his return after a lengthy absence. The Twins will have to activate Santana from the 60-day disabled list.

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TORONTO -- Right-hander Ervin Santana rejoined the Twins on Tuesday in advance of his season debut against the Blue Jays on Wednesday after missing nearly the first three months of the year because of surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right middle finger.

Santana was initially expected to be back in late April or early May, but he suffered a few setbacks, including ending his first rehab assignment in late May early. But he's healthy now and said he's excited to make his return after a lengthy absence. The Twins will have to activate Santana from the 60-day disabled list.

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The Twins made room for Santana on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters by designating utilityman Taylor Motter for assignment after Tuesday's 5-0 win over the Blue Jays.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

"It was a lot of ups and downs, but the good thing is I kept my mind positive," Santana said. "It's crazy. But at the same time, it was a surgery. You can't predict when you're coming back because you didn't know how the finger was going to react and all that. I was being patient, and I didn't try to hurry anything up."

Santana, 35, said it was tough to get a feel for his pitches after the surgery, and that his velocity still isn't where it usually is. His fastball has mostly been at 90 mph in his rehab starts after it averaged roughly 93 mph last season. But he posted a 3.42 ERA over his last five rehab outings since his setback and is confident his velocity won't be an issue.

"It will be back," Santana said. "I talked to the doctor yesterday and asked him about it. He said, 'Don't worry. You just had a finger surgery so it's not like it was your shoulder or elbow.'"

Santana, though, said he's still dealing with pain in his finger when he pitches, and there's no timetable for when he'll be able to pitch pain-free. But Santana said it's manageable and shouldn't be a problem.

"That's normal," Santana said. "Because it hasn't been a year since surgery. I know there will be pain there, but it won't stop me from pitching."

Santana, who is in the last year of his contract, also knows he could be a trade candidate if he pitches well, and the Twins decide to sell. He's not expected to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he could be a prime candidate to be placed on waivers and traded in August.

"I don't think about it," Santana said. "I just think about pitching for myself and the team I'm with right now. I'm just trying to help them get a chance to win."

For now, the Twins are happy to have Santana back, as he's a stable presence in the rotation and posted a 3.28 ERA in 211 1/3 innings last season. He's also regarded as a leader in the clubhouse and is well-liked because of his easy-going personality.

"I would think that Ervin walking into a clubhouse would be a lift, just in itself," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "And whatever is going on out there, it's probably good stuff."

Escobar wins Heart and Hustle Award
Infielder Eduardo Escobar was named the Twins' winner of the 2018 Heart and Hustle Award, as announced by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association on Tuesday. It's given to the player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game. Each team has an individual winner, and the overall winner will be announced on Nov. 6.

Video: MIN@TOR: Escobar receives Twins' Heart & Hustle Award

Buxton takes batting practice
Center fielder Byron Buxton, who is on the Minor League disabled list with a left wrist sprain, took batting practice without any issues with Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday. He also hit off the tee and hit in the cages on Monday. He's nearing a return with the Red Wings, as the injury isn't considered serious.

Reed throws live bullpen
Reliever Addison Reed, on the DL with right triceps tightness, threw a live bullpen session before Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays and reported no issues. He's expected to be reinstated from the DL soon, and it could come as early as Thursday in Boston.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Ervin Santana