Carlos Santana, Willi Castro and the Secret Of the Twins' Rally Sausage

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

If you grew up in the 1990s, there’s a good chance you watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The origin story of the comic strip turned Saturday morning cartoon was that a group of turtles that a Japanese ninja named Hamato Yoshi purchased got into a fight with an extraterrestrial being known as The Kraang.

The Kraang splashed Yoshi and the turtles with a chemical known as “The Ooze,” and the baby turtles became stronger than most creatures on Earth. Yoshi’s DNA was combined with a rat that had crawled up his leg during the fight and became known as Splinter. Together, they became a pizza-loving, crime-fighting group that saved the universe from The Kraang and Master Shredder.

If you’re wondering if you’re still reading a Minnesota Twins article, don’t worry — you haven’t stumbled upon the wrong website. Just a month ago, Minnesota’s lineup was as helpless as a baby turtle flipped upside down in the sun. Then Ryan Jeffers brought a giant summer sausage into the Twins dugout.

For players like Jeffers and Max Kepler, the sausage coincided with a new level of their game that kept the Twins afloat while Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Royce Lewis were on the injured list. But in the same way, it’s helped role players like Willi Castro and Carlos Santana get back on track and lead the Twins to win 17 of their past 20 games.

“The Secret of the Sausage” is unknown (and probably unsuitable for this family-friendly website). However, something happened when Jeffers brought that giant Cloverdale log into the clubhouse on April 22.

Coming into a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox, the Twins ranked 27th in on-base percentage (.281), and 29th in batting average (.195), slugging percentage (.329) and OPS (.609). Even worse, the Twins were 7-13 and getting buried by a division that collectively surged out to start the season.

It’s crazy to think that an inanimate object could rally a clubhouse, but that was probably the mindset The Kraang had before turning a random turtle into Michelangelo. If we were to pinpoint who has benefitted the most from the sausage, Santana has to be toward the top of the list.

After signing a one-year, $5.25 million contract in free agency, Santana was one of the faces of the payroll reduction last winter. In the first few weeks, Santana looked more like Tony Batista than Nelson Cruz, hitting .133/.224/.150 with no home runs and two RBI in his first 17 games.

Twins fans know a free-agent lemon when they see one. Santana was unable to produce and on his way to becoming this year’s version of Joey Gallo. However, that all changed when Jeffers introduced the sausage.

In the 20 games since, Santana has been a menace, hitting .278/.342/.625 with seven home runs and 19 RBI. Of his 20 hits, 11 have gone for extra bases. His low strikeout rate (15.1%) has been a godsend to a lineup that was on its way to obliterating its own record for strikeouts in a season.

While Santana’s bat has been the focal point, so has his defense. Since C.J. Cron left town after a few seasons, the Twins have tried several solutions at first base, including unconventional options like Donovan Solano and Luis Arraez.

Santana has only broken even with no defensive runs saved. It’s been a wash after watching Alex Kirilloff, Solano, and Gallo combine for one defensive run saved last season. However, with Santana adding more power and consistency at the plate, he’s become a fixture in the lineup who isn’t a liability in the field.

Santana’s revelation has been one sausage-fueled redemption story. But Castro falls into the same tube. Castro was one of Minnesota’s most pleasant surprises in 2023. However, he had struggled in the opening weeks, hitting .158/.279/.246 with one home run and three RBI in 68 plate appearances. Even more concerning? Castro struck out 26 times in those plate appearances for a 38 percent strikeout rate.

Naturally, Castro became one of Minnesota’s hottest hitters once Jeffers introduced the sausage. He’s hitting .354/.378/.608 with a pair of home runs and 11 RBI over the last 20 games. Castro even reduced his strikeout race to 15.8 percent during this stretch.

It’s easy to dismiss Castro and Santana’s success as the average highs and lows of a 162-game season, but it’s exactly what the Twins need to ensure this isn’t a fluke. Top hitters like Jeffers and Kepler are sure to contribute. However, players like Santana and Castro make the lineup go, especially when the Twins get Buxton and Lewis back from the injured list.

With the Twins getting the ultimate litmus test with a series against the New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians this week, it’s unlikely that Aaron Judge is going to show up with a giant brain in his torso or Jose Ramirez will come dressed as Master Shredder.

Still, it’s fair to wonder what exactly is in that special rally sausage and how it transformed a shell-shocked lineup to begin the year.

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