Santana begins throwing bullpen sessions

Santana begins throwing bullpen sessions

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Ervin Santana, who is serving an 80-game suspension for the use of a performance-enhancing substance, has started throwing bullpen sessions at the Twins' Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

Santana, who has a home in Sarasota, Fla., started ramping up his throwing program last week in Fort Myers. He's scheduled to throw live batting practice next week before moving on to starting in extended spring training games.

He's eligible to return with the Twins on July 4, and per Major League Baseball rules, he gets 16 days for a Minor League rehab assignment before returning. He's expected to spend those 16 days with Triple-A Rochester, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony.

"Within the next couple weeks he'll start throwing in some extended games and by mid-June we can start the 16-day rehab he's allowed to have and we'll probably send him up to Rochester," Antony said. "We'd like him to get in three or four starts so he's ready to go when his 80 games are up."

The 32-year-old signed a four-year, $55 million deal before the season. His suspension was announced on April 3, just three days before Opening Day. He was slated to be the club's No. 2 starter after right-hander Phil Hughes.

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