7/5 PREGAME NOTES: Santana vs. Bridwell, Injury Updates, Buxton Improving

Santana looks to start his July better than he started his June -- against the same team.

It’s steamy with nary a cloud in sight as the Minnesota Twins look to complete a three-game sweep at home against the Los Angeles Angels. A pair of righties will tangle as recently-named All-Star Ervin Santana takes on Parker Bridwell. More on that in a bit.

Miguel Sano got ready for his upcoming trip to Miami for the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby by putting a number of balls — at least three which I saw — into section 332 during pre-game BP. That’s not a misprint — he hit them to the 300 level, and not anywhere close to the foul pole. Those are some mammoth blasts.

Related: He’ll face Mike Moustakas in the first round of the derby next week.

Brian Dozier is back in the lineup after missing a pair of games with back issues. He’s leading off and playing second base, and said he was feeling a lot better as he made his way through the clubhouse after taking some early hitting. “We saw a lot of improvement yesterday, I know he went through a lot of treatment just to make sure he did everything he could to get that back as loose as possible,” said manager Paul Molitor of Dozier. “He took some swings and did some pregame work, so he should be fine.

Here’s how the Twins will attack Bridwell:

Here’s how the Angels will counter against Santana:

Santana looks to get July off to a better start than he did in June — which was also against the Angels. Santana came into that matchup against the Angels on June 3 with a 1.75 ERA and came out of the month at 3.07. The Angels popped him for seven earned runs and three home runs — including the 600th of Albert Pujols’ storied career — over just four innings as the Twins fell 7-2 on that night. That was easily his shortest start of the season.

Santana had an ERA of 6.03 in June and allowed nine home runs as opposing batters hit a robust .315/.366/.570 against him in the month. It was an odd month of good and bad, as Santana allowed zero earned runs in two of his June starts, and 7-5-6-7 in the other four. He’ll look to get July off to a strong start against the team he represented as an All-Star back in 2008.

We don’t know much about Bridwell, who is making just his fifth MLB start, so we enlisted the help of terrific Los Angeles Times Angels beat reporter Pedro Moura for a breakdown.

“My understanding of Bridwell comes from just the last three or four weeks. I had never seen him pitch before a month ago,” Moura said. “I’m not a scout, but what I see is a major-league pitcher. No one thought that until a month ago. A team that desperately needs starting pitching — perhaps more than anyone else in the major leagues — didn’t think that. That’s kind of amazing, because he’s been OK in the big leagues. His fastball velocity, I believe, has trended up significantly over the last couple season, and that really helps. I don’t know that he really has a plus secondary pitch. It’s not like we have to speak in light brushes with him; he’s never going to be a stud starter. But as a replacement, he seems to be fine. When he’s gotten into trouble, it’s because he’s nibbled. He had a five-walk start, and I think the Angels were dissatisfied with how he attacked opposing hitters in that start. Since then I think he’s toned it down a bit. He’s not a particularly wild guy by nature; I think he was just nibbling too much around the strike zone. He’s sort of fixed that since.”

Moura added that Bridwell is also a small-town Texas kid who doesn’t get too caught up in the moment. He’s a bit of a fish out of water in big-league ballparks and cities, and with that comes with a lack of fear. He’s not overwhelmed at this level — especially since he’s making just his fifth MLB start — but he’s a nice swingman type (No. 6-7 starter) that teams need as the season wears on.

Roster move

The Twins placed left-handed starter Hector Santiago on the disabled list retroactive to July 3 with upper thoracic back pain and discomfort. Santiago spent time on the disabled list earlier in the season with a left shoulder strain, but according to Molitor, this isn’t necessarily the same injury.

“It could be connected a little bit,” Molitor said. “I was good he came in and talked about it. You are probably gonna have that conversation at some point of something he might be trying to pitch through or whatever the situation might have been. It’s time to get it a little more thoroughly examined and see where we’re at.”

Molitor added that Santiago was getting an MRI on Wednesday evening.

Santiago’s injury doesn’t appear to have affected his previous start — a rough one in Kansas City over the weekend. “When I talked to him the other day, he said he was fine,” Molitor said.

“We talked through what I saw, and what my concerns were, and there was nothing about the physical side of contributing to his last outing. That part of it, I can’t really explain that, if there was a connection there somehow, and he was just trying to man his way through that start or whatever. But he said even after he came out of that game that he had more, and he was trying to make sure he had better command. The guys that watched him throw yesterday, Eddie (Guardado) and Neil (Allen), said that it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. Obviously, he felt something the entire bullpen yesterday, and now we have to address that.

The corresponding move was to bring right-handed reliever Alan Busenitz up from Triple-A Rochester. Busenitz had posted a 2.08 ERA in 8.2 innings with the Twins in June, and had not thrown for the Red Wings since returning to Triple-A on July 1. He’ll work in middle relief.

Injury Updates

Left-handed reliever Craig Breslow will throw a bullpen on Thursday, and is slated to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Sunday. Breslow is on the 10-day disabled list with left thoracic rib soreness.

Left-handed reliever Glen Perkins will start throwing off a mound again on Thursday. He’s been attempting to return from biceps tendinitis which has waylaid his return from shoulder surgery.

Notes and Quotes

    • The Twins are 5-1 on the season against the Angels.
    • The Twins have won 10 of their last 13 games against the Angels and have won six in a row at Target Field against them.
    • Dozier is two home runs away from passing Jacque Jones with 130 career long balls, and his next leadoff home run will push him past Jones on for No. 1 on the team’s all-time list (20).
    • Molitor on how good closer Brandon Kintzler has been this season: “All the questions that we looked at in Spring Training, with no disrespect intended, you wonder if Kintzler’s able to pick up where he left off, given the fact that he never really closed at this level. I just haven’t had to have that question on my desk all season long, because he’s just kinda locked it up for us. To be 20-plus (saves) here into the break, it’s just been a really consistent first half for him, it’s almost … the few glitches he’s had, they’re gonna happen, but he’s bounced back each and every time and has had no carry-over, which speaks to having the right mindset of a closer.”
    • Molitor on if Dozier was available off the bench on Tuesday: “I could have used him to pinch-hit, or he would have needed to get in the game, that would have been fine too.”
    • Molitor on a Friday starter: “Well, we have a need [laughter]. It’s one of those things where we find ourselves in this situation multiple times this year. We had a nice performance from Felix Jorge the other day, so naturally it would be an option that we could consider, and we’ll have communication a little bit more extensively tonight with the other staffs and try to make the best decision.”
    • Molitor on the improvement from Byron Buxton lately: “We’ve seen progress. Some days we feel it’s pretty good and the results maybe don’t back it up. But this new approach he’s taken over the past couple of weeks is starting to feel a little bit more natural for him. It’s good for me to see when he’s on time with fastballs, and yet he’s giving himself a chance to stay back long enough to hit off-speed pitches. Yeah, it’s still kind of a day-to-day grind for him, but when you have a day like that, it bolsters the mental side of the game and the confidence.”

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