Santana on track to face White Sox Saturday

Santana on track to face White Sox Saturday

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Ervin Santana threw a 30-pitch simulated game before Tuesday's game against the Astros and remains on track to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and start against the White Sox in Chicago.

Santana, on the DL retroactive to April 20 with back spasms, threw two innings with such hitters as John Ryan Murphy and Oswaldo Arcia standing in the box. The batters tracked pitches without swinging; Santana joked that he almost had a perfect game.

"I had a perfect game until the last batter, but I walked Arcia," Santana said with a smile. "But everything felt good."

Manager Paul Molitor was encouraged by what he saw from Santana, the club's Opening Day starter. Santana went 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts before the injury.

"Ervin had a good day," Molitor said. "We didn't really push him. I think he ended up at 30 pitches with a break in between. We'll see how he reacts the rest of the day and tomorrow, but I'm fairly confident he'll be back on the mound for us on Saturday."

Worth noting

• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who was activated from the DL after Monday's game, made his return to the lineup on Tuesday, batting fifth. Molitor said that with Plouffe back, Eduardo Nunez will be relegated to a backup role. But he noted that Nunez did well in Plouffe's absence, hitting .371/.420/.484 with a homer and 10 RBIs in 19 games.

"I'm going to tell him he did a heck of a job stepping in for us," Molitor said. "Defensively, he's been solid."

• Molitor plans to keep center fielder Danny Santana atop the lineup in the near-term, and still prefers Brian Dozier hitting second and Joe Mauer batting third. He never thought to experiment using Mauer as his leadoff hitter at any point this season, even when the offense was scuffling in April. Mauer leads the American League with a .452 on-base percentage, but Molitor still likes Mauer going to the plate with more chances with runners in scoring position.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. 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.