Source: Twins agree to sign Santana to four-year deal

SAN DIEGO — The Twins got their man on the last day of the Winter Meetings on Thursday, as they agreed to sign right-hander Ervin Santana to a four-year, $54 million deal, according to a Major League source.

The Twins met with Santana’s representatives in San Diego on Wednesday, and pushed hard over the last 24 hours to sign the right-hander. Santana helps bolster a rotation that finished with the worst ERA in the Majors for a second straight season. Santana is set to make $13.5 million per season over the next four years, according to a source. It’s a similar deal to the Twins signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal with an option last offseason.

Santana, 31, went 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA in 31 starts with the Braves last year. He struck out 179, walked 63 and gave up 16 homers in 196 innings.

It marked the fifth straight year Santana made at least 30 starts, but Santana missed reaching the 200-inning mark for just the second time over his last five seasons. He has a career 4.17 ERA with 1,507 strikeouts in 1,882 2/3 innings with the Angels, Royals and Braves.

The interest in Santana is nothing new for the Twins, who offered the right-hander a three-year, $33 million deal last offseason. But Santana ultimately spurned the Twins, opting to sign with the Braves on a one-year, $14.1 million deal to re-establish his value on the market.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Sources: Twins agree to sign Hunter to one-year deal

MINNEAPOLIS — Torii Hunter is coming home.

The 39-year-old outfielder has agreed to a one-year, $10.5-million contract with the Twins, two Major League sources confirmed Tuesday night. The Twins, however, haven’t confirmed and haven’t made an official announcement, as the deal is still pending a physical.

Hunter played the first 11 years of his career with the Twins, who drafted him in the first round in the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. He won seven Gold Glove Awards and made two All-Star appearances in his first stint with the club. He hit .271/.324/.469 with 192 homers, 259 doubles and 126 stolen bases in 1,234 career games with the Twins.

Hunter left Minnesota in 2008 to sign with the Angels before playing the last two seasons with the Tigers in chase of his first World Series title. He’s five-time All-Star who won nine straight Gold Glove Awards from 2001-09 and won Silver Slugger Awards in ’09 and ‘13.

Hunter hit .286/.319/.446 with 17 home runs last season and is a .279/.334/.446 career hitter in 18 Major League seasons.

Hunter will start in right field for the Twins in 2015, as Oswaldo Arcia will move over from right field to left field. Hunter moved off center field to right field during the 2010 season while with the Angels.

Hunter will bring the Twins much-needed power from the right side after the departure of Josh Willingham, but will also serve as a clubhouse leader and mentor to the club’s younger players. Hunter is known as one of the best clubhouse presences in baseball and is very familiar with new manager Paul Molitor.

Hunter was a teammate of new Twins manager Paul Molitor in ’97 and ’98, although Hunter only played in a combined eight games those two years. But Molitor was also around Hunter while serving as Minnesota’s bench coach in 2000 and ’01. Hunter was also a teammate of new Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado from 1997-2003 and both represented the Twins as All-Stars in ’02.

The Twins had been in contact with Torii Hunter’s agent, Larry Reynolds, since early this offseason, but the question was whether Hunter wanted to play for a club that has lost at least 92 games in each of the last four seasons. But Hunter chose the Twins over the Rangers, as Minnesota outbid Texas for Hunter, according to a report from Foxsports.com.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Twins officially hire Paul Molitor as new manager

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins made it official, as Paul Molitor will be introduced as the club’s new manager on Tuesday in a press conference at Target Field.

Molitor, 58, was considered the front-runner for the position since the Twins dismissed Ron Gardenhire as manager on Sept. 29. The Hall of Famer signed a three-year deal to become the 13th manager in Minnesota Twins history and just the third since Tom Kelly took over for Ray Miller in 1986.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who conducted the search for the new manager, will attend Tuesday’s press conference along with owner Jim Pohlad, club president Dave St. Peter and Molitor.

Molitor served as a coach for the club last season and is familiar with the club after serving as Minnesota’s Minor League baserunning and infield coordinator from 2005-13. Molitor also had that role with the Twins in ’03 before joining the Mariners as a hitting coach in ’04. He also finished as runner-up the last time the Twins hired a manager, when Gardenhire was picked as Kelly’s successor in ‘02. Molitor was also Minnesota’s bench coach from 2000-01.

He will join the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny, the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly, the White Sox Robin Ventura, the Rockies’ Walt Weiss and John Farrell — with the Blue Jays before winning the World Series as Red Sox skipper — as recent MLB hires with no prior managerial experience. Molitor, though, assisted with in-game strategy last season before serving as first-base coach after the All-Star break, when Joe Vavra was moved off his role as third-base coach after undergoing hip surgery.

Molitor, a St. Paul native, played 21 seasons in the Majors, including his final three with Minnesota from 1996-98. He finished his career with a .306/.369/.448 slash line with 3,319 hits in 2,683 games.

The Twins had at least two formal interviews with Molitor and also had two interviews with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and Class A Advanced Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz. Minnesota also interviewed White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale for the position. The Twins also contacted Chip Hale before he was named the D-backs’ manager.

Molitor will also join Ted Williams and Ryne Sandberg as only the third man to begin his big league managerial career following his Hall of Fame induction as a player. Williams was hired as manager of the Washington Senators in 1969, three years after he was enshrined in Cooperstown. Sandberg, elected to the Hall in 2005, began managing the Phillies in August 2013.

While Molitor is in rare company with Williams and Sandberg, there have been several eventual Hall of Famers who started managing before they became eligible, which takes until at least five years after the end of one’s playing career. That group includes Yogi Berra (hired by the Yankees in 1964, elected to the Hall in 1972), Bob Lemon (Royals 1970, 1976), Eddie Mathews (Braves 1972, 1978) Tony Perez (Reds 1993, 2000), Frank Robinson (Indians 1975, 1982) and Red Schoendienst (Cardinals 1965, 1989).

It should also be noted that the Hall did not induct its first class until 1936, which means there is a long list of players-turned-managers who went on to be elected to Cooperstown. That list includes baseball legends such as Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, Rogers Hornsby, Christy Mathewson and Tris Speaker.

Hughes turns to offer to pitch in relief to reach bonus

DETROIT — After Phil Hughes fell just one out short of reaching a $500,000 bonus for reaching 210 innings on the season because of a rain delay on Wednesday, the Twins offered him an opportunity to pitch in relief this weekend to reach the bonus, but he declined citing the health risks involved.

Hughes was at 96 pitches through eight innings against the D-backs and needed just one out in the ninth to reach 210 innings to get a $500,000 bonus. He would’ve gone back out for the final inning, but a 66-minute rain delay cost him the chance to reach that mark.

So Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan called Hughes into the manager’s office at Comerica Park before Thursday’s game to tell him he could pitch in relief this weekend. But Hughes didn’t take long to come to a decision, despite the amount of money involved.

“They extended the offer for me to pitch in the bullpen but I just didn’t think it was right,” Hughes said. “If I were fighting for a playoff spot, I’d 100 percent be available. But given the circumstances, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Hughes, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal before the year, already reached a pair of $250,000 bonuses for reaching 180 and 195 innings. His previous career-high was 191 1/3 innings set in 2012 while with the Yankees.

It wasn’t just rain on Wednesday that cost Hughes a chance at going more than 210 innings, as he saw his scheduled start on Sept. 12 pushed back a day due to a rainout or else he would’ve started in the season finale on Sunday.

“I owe too much to this organization for the next two years to risk getting hurt for an incentive,” Hughes said. “My outing [Sept. 12] got rained out and the last inning of my last start got rained out, so for whatever reason it wasn’t meant to be. There’s a lot bigger problems out there. I’m proud of my season.”

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he believed it was the right thing for the organization to do because the weather played a factor and because of the way Hughes pitched this season. He also added the Twins can’t just give him the $500,000 bonus because of the rules of the contract.

“You’d have to restructure things,” Ryan said. “So it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye there.”

Ryan also said the signing couldn’t have worked out any better for the Twins and praised Hughes’ character for making his decision.

“He’s a good man,” Ryan said. “He’s done a wonderful job for us. This guy is a quality guy.”

Now that Hughes’ season is official done, he set Major League Baseball’s single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio record. Hughes struck out 186 batters and walked just 16 on the season for an 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio to break Bret Saberhagen’s record of 11.00 strikeouts per walk set in 1994.

If Hughes were to walk one more batter, he would fall below Saberhagen’s mark. Instead, Hughes finishes with as many wins as walks with 16 each, becoming just the third pitcher in the modern era to accomplish that feat with at least 15 wins. He also finished with a 3.52 ERA.

Hughes also wanted to thank the fans for their support, as many took to social media to tell him he deserved the $500,000 bonus. He joked that it’s not often fans want players to be paid more, but said he’s comfortable with the decision he made.

“That was very kind of them to appreciate what I’ve done this year,” Hughes said. “If I would’ve reached this milestone over the course of my 32 starts, then so be it. But I didn’t, so it is what it is.”

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Trevor May to be recalled to start vs. A’s on Saturday

OAKLAND — The wait is over.

Top prospect Trevor May is set to make his Major League debut for the Twins on Saturday against the A’s. The right-hander will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to make his first big league start, and a corresponding roster move will come after Friday’s game.

May, ranked as the club’s No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, posted a 2.93 ERA in 17 starts with Rochester. He struck out 91, walked 37 and allowed four homers in 95 1/3 innings. May’s 2.93 ERA ranked fourth in the International League.

May had a chance to make his debut earlier this season, but missed nearly a month with a right calf strain sustained in late June. The injury also kept him from participating in the Sirius/XM Futures Game at Target Field on July 13.

May, along with fellow top prospect Alex Meyer, helped anchor the rotation at Rochester and cut down on his walk rate, which had plagued him in the past.

He’s always had a power arm — he’s struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings throughout his seven seasons in the Minors — but has suffered from control issues. But he’s cut his walk rate in three straight seasons, going from 4.7 walks per nine innings in ’12 to 4.0 last year and 3.5 this season.

May, 24, was originally acquired by the Twins before the ’13 season in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Phillies. May, who will wear No. 65, was already on the 40-man roster.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Twins acquire Tommy Milone from A’s for Sam Fuld

KANSAS CITY — The Twins bolstered their rotation before Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring left-hander Tommy Milone from the A’s in exchange for outfielder Sam Fuld.

Additionally, the Twins will recall first baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas from Double-A New Britain to join the team in Kansas City on Thursday. Vargas, ranked as the club’s No. 11 prospect by MLB.com, was hitting .281/.360/.472 with 17 homers, 17 doubles and 63 RBIs in 97 games.

Milone, 27, has been a solid starter in parts of four seasons with the A’s, going 32-22 with a 3.84 ERA in 78 starts and two relief appearance. The left-hander is 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA this season to go along with 61 strikeouts and 26 walks in 96 1/3 innings with the A’s.

But Milone was at Triple-A Sacramento at the time of the trade, as the A’s had plenty of pitching depth after acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in early July. He’ll report to Triple-A Rochester, as Vargas will take Fuld’s spot on the roster.

It’s the second time Milone has been traded in his career. He was originally drafted by the Nationals in the 10th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Southern California, but was traded to the A’s from Washington along with right-hander Brad Peacock, catcher Derek Norris and pitcher A.J. Cole for left-hander Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Rob Gilliam on Dec. 23, 2011.

Fuld, 32, played in 53 games with the Twins after being acquired on waivers from the A’s on April 20. The outfielder hit .274/.370/.354 with one homer, 10 doubles and 12 stolen bases for Minnesota.

Nolasco to have right elbow examined Tuesday

SEATTLE — Right-hander Ricky Nolasco met with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson on Monday, and admitted he’s been pitching through elbow discomfort this season.

Nolasco is scheduled to fly back to Minnesota on Monday night as a result, and will be examined by team physician Dr. John Steubs on Tuesday. It was the first time Nolasco had told anyone in the organization that he’s had elbow issues this year.

“After some coaxing, he finally admitted he’s been struggling since Spring Training with a bit of a sore elbow,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He said he can’t get loose more than anything. Said it gets tight. Some days it’s better than others. But yesterday, he had a real difficult time getting loose, so we called it a day after two innings. And we talked to him today and he admitted something was going on so we’ll get him checked out.”

Nolasco struggled Sunday, giving up six runs on seven hits over a season-low two innings in a loss to the Yankees to see his ERA rise to 5.90 on the year. The Twins have been worried about his velocity, as it’s ticked downward every month, according to data at BrooksBaseball.net.

Nolasco’s four-seam fastball averaged 92.39 mph in March, 91.79 mph in April, 91.60 mph in May, 90.97 mph in June and 90.55 mph in July. His four-seam velocity was a season-worst 89.96 mph in his start on Sunday.

“His velocity has been down,” Antony said. “He hasn’t been as effective with his pitches. He hasn’t had the command as he’s had. Physically, everything he’s done isn’t what the reports we had on him from last year.”

Nolasco’s troubles have come in the first season of a four-year, $49 million deal signed in the offseason. He had a career 4.37 ERA entering this year, including a 3.70 ERA last year with the Marlins and Dodgers.

“We know what we brought here — we brought over a very good pitcher with a great track record,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He finally admitted it. I like the old school. I like a guy who wants to pitch through some pain. But it’s obviously the results aren’t what we want and yesterday he didn’t have much, at all.”

Mauer leaves game with right oblique strain

MINNEAPOLIS — First baseman Joe Mauer left Tuesday’s game against the Royals in the fifth inning after straining his right oblique on a swing on a double in the bottom of the fourth. He’ll be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

With the bases loaded and one out, Mauer laced a two-run double to left field to give the Twins a four-run lead but grabbed at the oblique upon reaching second. He remained in the game despite a visit from manager Ron Gardenhire and trainer Tony Leo, and was stranded at second base.

But Mauer was removed from the game in the top of the fifth, with Parmelee moving from left field to first base. Josh Willingham took over in left field.

“I’ve been kind of battling this area for about a week or so or maybe a little more,” Mauer said. “I’ve been getting stiff but I’ve been getting it loose and everything has been fine. But today on that one swing on the ball down the line it felt like somebody hit me pretty hard right there.”

Mauer added he’s not sure how much time he’ll miss until he’s looked at again on Wednesday, but is hopeful he’ll be able to avoid the 15-day disabled list. But he did admit it’s a painful injury and one he hasn’t dealt with before so a trip to the DL can’t be ruled out just yet.

“I’ve never had this happen before,” Mauer said. “I hope it’s a lot sooner than what guys in the past have had.”

The double extended Mauer’s season-long hit streak to 12 games. He is hitting .362 with six doubles and 12 RBIs over that stretch to improve his slash line to .271/.342/.353 in 76 games.

“It’s frustrating,” Mauer said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good and getting some results. So it’s bad timing.”

Pino to start Thursday, Deduno headed to bullpen

BOSTON — The Twins will recall Yohan Pino from Triple-A Rochester to start against the White Sox on Thursday, with fellow right-hander Samuel Deduno heading to the bullpen. A corresponding roster move will come on Thursday.

Pino, 30, has excelled with Rochester this year, going 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA while making seven starts and seven relief appearances. The 6-foot-2 right-hander also has struck out 61 and walked 16 in 61 innings.

He rejoined the Twins organization this year after being traded to Cleveland for right-hander Carl Pavano in 2009. He’ll be making his Major League debut after 10 seasons and 292 career appearances in the Minors. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster but the Twins can shift right-hander Mike Pelfrey to the 60-day disabled list to make room for him. The 25-man roster move is still unclear but is likely to be a pitcher sent out, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wants to keep a 12-man pitching staff.

Gardenhire said Pino isn’t overpowering, as his fastball averages just 87-88 mph, but possesses a strong curveball and was the most deserving of several candidates at Rochester, including top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May.

“He’s been lights out and has been pitching fantastic along with three or four other guys down there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s been throwing the ball well and doing everything they asked. He has a great ERA and the whole package. I think we could’ve had our choices down there and this who they decided to go with because he’s worked very hard.”

Deduno, meanwhile, had struggled over his last four outings with a 10.13 ERA and will head back to the bullpen where he began the season. He took the decision in stride, even though he prefers to be a starting pitcher.

“I’m happy to be here and in the bullpen,” Deduno said. “I’m going to my job. I have to keep my head up.”

Twins exploring their options with Josmil Pinto

TORONTO — With Kendrys Morales set to be the everyday designated hitter for the Twins moving forward, the club is deciding what to do with rookie catcher Josmil Pinto.

Pinto started 19 games at designated hitter as a way to get his bat into the lineup with Kurt Suzuki serving as the primary catcher this season. Suzuki made his 46th start behind the plate on Wednesday with right-hander Phil Hughes on the mound, while Pinto has made just 18 starts at catcher this year.

“With Hughes going, I really wanted Suzuki to catch Hughes,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Pinto has been scuffling along with his throwing and all those things. We’re trying to do some work with him to get him straightened out a little bit. We talked to Suzuki about this and told him he might have to catch three this series until we get the kid straightened out.”

Pinto has had trouble defensively this year, as he’s yet to throw out an opposing base stealer in 16 attempts and also has made five errors. He’s also still working on his pitch calling and framing skills.

So the Twins could look to option him to Triple-A Rochester to get more consistent playing time and work on his defense. Triple-A catchers Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann are both on the 40-man roster, and one of the two could be called up to replace Pinto.

Pinto, 25, also started off hot offensively but has cooled down since May 1. Some of his scuffles could come from a lack of consistent playing time but is hitting just .200/.227/.329 with two homers and seven RBIs in 23 games since May 1.

Gardenhire said a decision hasn’t been made on Pinto yet. But reading between the lines, it’s becoming more likely he’ll go down to Triple-A to continue his development.

“It’s all the things we’re talking about,” Gardenhire said. “We’re trying to figure out our route here. We’re trying to see how we can work him in and keep him developing, too. We’re working on it. The whole process.”

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