Santana getting better feel for changeup

Santana getting better feel for changeup

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After struggling with his changeup against the Pirates on Friday, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana made it a point to try to work on the pitch against the Orioles on Wednesday.

Santana worked in more changeups than sliders against Baltimore, and he was pleased with the progress of the changeup despite giving up three runs on four hits over four innings during a 3-2 loss. Two of those runs came on a two-run homer from Jonathan Schoop on a hanging slider up in the zone.

"To me, this one was better than the last one," said Santana, who threw two scoreless frames last time out. "I threw less pitches and more innings, which is what you're looking for."

Santana was more efficient on Wednesday, as he threw 42 pitches through four innings, which caused him to throw 15 more in the bullpen to reach his pitch count. Santana's slider remains his best offspeed pitch, but he did throw his changeup a career-high 14.2 percent of the time last year after throwing it just 7.2 percent of the time the previous year, according to Fangraphs.com.

"I just have to keep practicing," Santana said. "As a starting pitcher, you need it. Either a changeup or a split or a cutter, you need that type of pitch."

Twins bench coach Joe Vavra, who served as manager with Paul Molitor managing the Twins in their split-squad game against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park, said he came away impressed by Santana's outing and how he worked with catcher Kurt Suzuki.

"He made a mistake on a slider up, but after that, he got sharp with the slider," Vavra said. "Suzuki and him were trying to get together on pitches and situations. So it was a good day for him."

Meanwhile, down the street against the Red Sox, right-hander Mike Pelfrey started for the Twins and surrendered one run on three hits over four innings. Pelfrey, who remains in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation with Tommy Milone, Alex Meyer and Trevor May, has a 1.00 ERA in nine Grapefruit League innings.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.