KANSAS CITY -- Twins outfielder Danny Santana was placed on the 15-day disabled list after sustaining a strained right hamstring in the sixth inning of Saturday's 7-0 loss to the Royals.
The injury opens the door for No. 2 prospect Max Kepler to join the team, as he's being called up from Triple-A Rochester. Kepler, 23, is ranked as the No. 43 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, and can handle all three outfield spots.
Santana suffered the injury after trying to run down a deep drive to center from catcher Salvador Perez. Santana, who was making his third straight start and had seen action at all three outfield spots, slowed down as he got near the warning track, favoring his hamstring. He was visited by manager Paul Molitor and head trainer Dave Pruemer, and walked off the field with Pruemer's help.
"I feel bad for him for it to be five games into the season and to get a setback like that physically," Molitor said. "We're optimistic he didn't rupture it, but he felt a significant tug on that hamstring. He was in a lot of pain. It's going to take some time to get that thing right."
Santana, who went 0-for-3, was replaced by Byron Buxton in center field. Santana was the club's hottest hitter in Spring Training, and went 2-for-12 early this season. He started in right field on Thursday, left on Friday and center on Saturday. He said he's unsure how long he'll be out.
"I felt the pain one step before I got to the ball," Santana said. "I'm really sore right now. I don't know how bad it is. I don't know long. Maybe come back in a few weeks."
Kepler, 22, was the lone player who can play center field on the 40-man roster, and got the nod despite the Twins wanting him to get regular playing time to continue his development. He made his Triple-A debut on Thursday after winning Southern League MVP honors at Double-A last year. Kepler hit .322/.416/.531 with nine homers, 32 doubles, 13 triples and 18 stolen bases with Double-A Chattanooga last year.
Kepler figures to be rotated in the outfield along with starters Eddie Rosario, Buxton and Miguel Sano, as well as backup outfielder Oswaldo Arcia. Kepler was a September callup last year, playing in three games, and going 1-for-7 at the plate.