Santana makes return to KC with Twins

Starter to face ex-mates in finale

Santana makes return to KC with Twins

KANSAS CITY -- As Twins right-hander Ervin Santana takes a big league mound for the first time on Sunday since his 80-game suspension for his use of a performance-enhancing drug, it will at least be in familiar surroundings.

Santana returns to Kauffman Stadium, where he pitched well for the Royals in 2013 and where he has pitched well throughout his career (7-6, 3.68 ERA).

Santana enjoyed his season here, enjoyed his teammates, and performed admirably (9-10, 211 innings, 3.24 ERA).

That will be the only difficult part, he said -- pitching against his former friends on the Royals.

"It's not easy because I used to play with these guys," Santana said. "But at the same time, you just have to not think about [who is at the plate] and go out and perform. It's a game."

As Santana waved at several Royals who were stretching before Saturday's game, his face broke into a wide smile. He hadn't had a chance yet to chat with his former teammates.

"Not yet. I just got here," he said. "I'm just happy to be here."

That he is wearing a Twins uniform instead of a Royals uniform wasn't from lack of effort by the Royals' front office. Two years ago, the Royals offered him the $14.1 million qualifying offer, but hoped to negotiate a longer deal. The two sides remained apart on the finances, however.

And the Royals had interest again last offseason but weren't interested in going the four-year, $55 million route the Twins did to lure Santana.

Instead, the Royals were more than content to land right-hander Edinson Volquez, who is 8-4 with a 3.48 ERA and a team-high 95 2/3 innings. Volquez signed a two-year, guaranteed $20 million deal with a club option ($10 million) for 2017.

And the Twins finally will get a chance to see what they have in Santana on Sunday.

"I'm back and I can't wait to pitch," he said. "What happened is in the past and it's time to go forward."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.