Santana looking to settle in as Twins' shortstop

Santana looking to settle in as Twins' shortstop

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Danny Santana did everything asked of him as a rookie last season, and now he's looking forward to settling back to his natural position. Santana, 24, learned center field on the fly last year for the Twins, but he is playing exclusively at shortstop in Spring Training.

Santana, who signed with the Twins as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, finished seventh in the American League's Rookie of the Year Award balloting. He batted .319 with 20 stolen bases, and he did so despite roaming all over the diamond as a rookie.

"I didn't know how to play the outfield and I needed a lot of work," he said. "It wasn't hard, because I have the ability to play many positions. But the hard part was being in center field and throwing to the bases. At shortstop, you throw from different angles. In the outfield, you need to be on top to throw."

Now, a year later, Santana has the ideal person looking after his development. Manager Paul Molitor started as a middle infielder and played seven different positions during his Hall of Fame playing career, and he starred next to Robin Yount, who excelled at both shortstop and center field.

Molitor said that Santana's athletic ability allowed him to be successful at two of the game's prime defensive positions, but he also said that he'd like to see him be more consistent defensively. That's why Santana is settling in at shortstop, and Molitor hopes to see him take another step forward.

"There's a lot of people here who believed in Danny Santana's future for a long time. We were able to get a glimpse of that last year," Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence in that kid. He's going about his business very professionally. He's really a good listener and applier. Some guys listen well and have trouble taking it out there. He's pretty good at taking information and putting it into play."

Molitor said it truly takes a unique talent to thrive at both shortstop and center field, and he also said that the Twins are invested in doing what it takes to help Santana thrive. That's why he's back in the infield, and Molitor wants to allow Santana a chance to get comfortable and let his ability take over.

"Although his wasn't a full season, when you're up here the first time, you might have been projected and there's some expectation there," Molitor said of Santana's second season. "But now that you've accomplished certain things, even for a short time, the bar has been raised. The old sophomore jinx for me is the guys that all of a sudden, now they have to aspire to do what they did in the past."

Santana, to his credit, isn't putting any extra pressure on himself. He's working hard on the field on a daily basis, absorbing everything the team's infield instructors can throw at him. Santana, flushed after a long day, said on Monday that he thinks he can be just as good as he was last year.

"I feel a lot more comfortable, but I don't feel satisfied," Santana said. "The only thing that surprised me last year was my hitting. I know I can hit .280 or .290 because I've done it in the Minor Leagues. But to hit .319 was awesome. This year, I just want to be the same and change nothing."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.