The Minnesota Twins received disappointing news earlier this week that starting pitcher Ervin Santana would be shelved for spring training and the start of the season after undergoing capsular release/debridement surgery for discomfort in his right middle finger. Team press releases indicate that Santana had been reporting some form of pain in this finger since the end of last season, and throwing informal sessions just prior to the official start of spring training resulted in recurring discomfort. Santana’s injury is described as the result of accumulated stress over time on his middle finger, and 10-12 weeks of post-surgery recovery and rehab time should leave him still ready to contribute for the better part of the season. But in the short run, the question of how to fill the 2017 All-Star’s spot in the rotation is a tricky one.

Much of the initial reaction to the Santana news has revolved around the increased need for the Twins to add a starter like Yu Darvish. I’ve made a case for why Darvish would fit in well with the Twins, and the Twins certainly seem to think the same, as the team reportedly made a formal offer to Darvish’s camp this week. But the loss of Santana should not directly be a reason to overbid for Darvish or overestimate his actual value, especially when early season scheduling has gifted the Twins three off days. In fact, the Twins may only need to cover about 2-4 starts depending on how Santana’s recovery progresses. Darvish is the name everyone wants, but not the replacement for Santana’s innings the Twins need. The Twins should decide to fill the role internally. A couple of the more experienced options are clearly Tyler Duffey and Phil Hughes, both of which come with both upside and a handful of concerns.

Duffey’s inconsistent performance in the past few seasons has made him one of the more confusing and difficult situations for the Twins to handle. At times, Duffey has shown tremendous potential both while starting. The same potential was often on display last season in relief. But with a more crowded bullpen after this off-season’s free agent singings and two minor-league options remaining, it’s very likely that Duffey will not have a place on the Major League roster out of spring training as a reliever. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Duffey will be stretched out for longer appearances in spring training, per new reports. If Duffey has a solid spring, expect his prior experience and overall upside to make him be the leading internal candidate to fill in for Santana.

The issue for Phil Hughes is once again his health. Hughes is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery, but is reportedly ready to fully participate in spring training workouts just seven months after his surgery. When right, Hughes has proven to be an average to above average rotation option. But a terrible stretch during 2016-17 has made Hughes almost an afterthought for most fans. A healthy Hughes does provide the Twins with another option early in the year and strengthens their overall depth for the whole season.

If Duffey or Hughes falter in spring training, the Twins could elect to go with an internal option with less experience. Aaron Slegers, Dietrich Enns, and Felix Jorge all have limited big league experience and are on the 40-man roster, all but guaranteeing that they will at least receive a more extended look in spring training if the Twins don’t add any starters before actual games get under way near the end of February.

Other internal options either on the 40-man roster or invited to spring training are rather limited, but include highly regarded prospect Stephen Gonsalves, a name many fans have been very eager to see in a Twins uniform in the next few seasons. It would take an exceptional spring from the 23-year-old Gonsalves to both crack the opening day roster and break away from the Twins’ developmental plans for the still somewhat unproven lefty, but after a strong 2017 showing at Double-A and glimpses of success in just 5 starts at Triple-A, don’t be shocked if Gonsalves gets a very long look this spring.

The Twins shouldn’t have to go outside the organization for help to fill the few starts that Santana will miss. Should the Twins miss out on Yu Darvish, however, it could become realistic for the Twins to resort to a fallback option such as Jaime Garcia on a short-term deal that could provide depth with or without Santana. It should be interesting to see which route the Twins take as spring training gets into full swing in the next few weeks.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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