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Pitcher Ervin Santana rejoins Twins after suspension, will start Sunday

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Twins pitcher Ervin Santana rejoined the team Saturday after serving an 80-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug banned by Major League Baseball. Santana, a right-hander, is scheduled to start Sunday against the Royals in Kansas City, according to the Associated Press.

To make room for him on the roster, the Twins sent right-hander Alex Meyer to Rochester. Meyer had a 16.88 ERA in two relief appearances. According to 1500ESPN.com, starter Trevor May is being bumped to the bullpen to keep a five-man starting rotation.

The Twins signed Santana in the offseason to a four-year, $55 million contract to help bolster their starting pitching. It’s the largest contract the team has ever given to a free agent.

But Santana hasn't pitched a regular season game for the team; he was suspended in early April after testing positive for Stanozolol, a steroid that is popular among Olympic athletes. It's known to be much easier to detect during a drug screening.

Santana has maintained his stance that he unknowingly ingested the Stanozolol and would never purposefully use a performance-enhancing drug.

The Pioneer Press writes about what Santana had to say Saturday afternoon in Kansas City, including this clip when he talks about explaiing the situation to his children.

Santana was sent to Triple-A Rochester last month to tune up before joining the Twins. He pitched three games, going 3-0 with a 1.74 earned run average, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In the last of those games on Tuesday he threw eight shutout innings with no walks.

“We can’t wait to get Ervin back,” Twins player Eduardo Nunez said, according to the Pioneer Press. “We’re fighting for first place, so we don’t care about what he’s done in the past. We need him to come here and do the job.”

"I know as well as anybody it’s good to get second chances," Twins manager Paul Molitor added, the Pioneer Press says. "I’m going to welcome him back. I hope everyone else does the same.”

Molitor and the entire team hope that Santana gives a boost to the starting rotation, since the team is in the thick of the playoff hunt.

So what can the Twins expect from Santana in the second half of the season?

Looking at his stats from the past five years, FOX Sports North predicts he'll be a solid starter, if not an ace - with above-average numbers.

His ERA was lower than 4.00 in four of those five years. Last season, with the Braves, Santana went 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA.

One other consequence of Santana's suspension is that if the Twins make the playoffs, he won't be eligible to pitch in the postseason, according to FOX Sports.

According to the Pioneer Press, Santana lost $6.64 million in salary, or 90 days’ pay, while he was suspended.

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