MINNEAPOLIS — Bud Black was a coach on the Los Angeles Angels staff when a young Ervin Santana broke into the big leagues, and it doesn’t surprise him to see Santana off to such a blistering start for the Minnesota Twins 11 years later.
“Delivery is pretty much the same, body is the same,” said Black, now the manager of the Colorado Rockies. “I think the head’s different. And not that it was a bad head earlier. It was just younger, inexperienced. Now he’s experienced, calm and confident.”
Black will have to wait an extra day to see the more experienced Santana up close.
The game between the Rockies and Twins scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed due to stormy weather. Dark clouds rolled in right around the scheduled first pitch and heavy rain and strong wind pelted Target Field for the next hour before officials called the game. It will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Thursday.
Santana (6-1, 1.50) will face German Marquez (1-2, 4.88) in the first time and Twins right-hander Jose Berrios (1-0, 1.17) will meet Colorado right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.25) in the second game.
Santana’s dominance has been a big reason why the Twins came to the ballpark on Wednesday night in first place in the AL Central. He ranks first in baseball in opponent average (.129), second in ERA and WHIP (0.81) and tied for second in wins.
“I think his track record was such that, at times, he was a dominant pitcher,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “For whatever reason, maybe a little bit later on in his career than some other guys, he’s found a consistency in what he does that allows him to put together this run.”
Even as a youngster with the Angels, Black knew Santana had the potential to be a fixture at or near the top of the rotation. He marveled at Santana’s hard slider and was impressed by his willingness to take coaching.
“He was a young player whose ears were always ready for coaching,” Black said. “He was a good listener. He was on board. We always felt in Anaheim that he was going to become a very good pitcher.”
It’s already the fourth postponement for the Twins this season. The Rockies have now had two postponements.
The weather, and the struggles of a couple of the team’s starters, has put Molitor in a scramble mode with his rotation for the last few weeks. Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson, both of whom started the season in the rotation, have been sent down to Triple-A Rochester to get right, and both are candidates to rejoin the team this week with open spots in the rotation on Saturday and Monday.
“We need a sixth starter. We’ve gone with three,” Molitor said with a chuckle, “and now we need a sixth.”
Adam Wilk and Nick Tepesch are two other candidates for help there, but Molitor said after the game was postponed that no decisions have been made. The Twins will recall Drew Rucinski from Rochester for bullpen depth in the second game.
As long as Molitor has Santana at the top of his rotation, he knows he can depend on a quality start to help a bullpen that has been strained early this season.
Black will get a chance to see the evolution first-hand on Thursday, and he recalled on Wednesday evening how he used to tell Santana about Hall of Famer Tom Seaver’s theory that the most important night of sleep an athlete can get is the one two nights before he performs.
When Santana saw Black at Target Field this week, he smiled, looked at his former coach and said, “Tom Seaver.”
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