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Santana Flirts with No-Hitter Range

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May 3, 2017

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A Wednesday notes column, including items on Twins, Gophers, Vikings and Lynx newsmakers.

Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana has won almost 40 percent of the team’s games this spring. He won last night against the Athletics and is 5-0 for the Twins, who have a 13-11 record this season.

No pitcher has won more games in the major leagues. Among starting pitchers, Santana’s 0.66 ERA is also the best in both the American and National Leagues.

Santana gave up three hits and no runs in six innings last night, while confusing and striking out seven batters. In two games this season he gave up only two hits, and two other times just four hits.

In his April 15 win over the White Sox, he pitched nine innings and threw a one-hitter, becoming the first Twins starter since 2011 to allow just a single hit. The way Santana is pitching, it’s fair to wonder whether this season he can become only the sixth Twin in club history to throw a no-hitter.  For the season he has allowed 16 hits and three earned runs in 41 innings.

The 34-year-old right hander, who was acquired by the Twins as a free agent in December of 2014, threw a no-hitter for the Angels against the Indians in 2011. Santana allowed one unearned run and struck out 10 batters.

Going into past seasons with Minnesota, Santana has been labeled a No. 2 or 3 caliber starter on a pitching staff in search of a No. 1. That has changed in a big way so far this season with Santana not just looking like a No. 1, but earning a place among baseball’s most dominant starters.

Former Twin Trevor Plouffe is the Athletics’ third baseman, and had one hit in four at bats last night. In his first season with the A’s he is hitting .209 with four home runs and nine RBI.

Another ex-Twin, Danny Valencia, played third for the Athletics last season but now is with the Mariners as a first baseman where he is batting .182 with two home runs and six RBI.

Write this name down: Nik Turley. The 27-year-old journeyman left-hander was signed by the Twins in the off season and is more than impressing at Double A Chattanooga. Turley, who has been in the minors since 2008 and was with the Red Sox organization last year, has a 0.44 ERA while allowing five hits and one run in four games including two starts.

Meanwhile, Turley teammate Kohl Stewart, the Twins’ first round draft choice in 2013, is 0-4 record with a 6.05 ERA.

Mark Coyle

The Athletes Village at the University of Minnesota is part of the “Nothing Short of Greatness” fundraising campaign with a $200 million goal. The Athletes Village project will cost about $166 million and the additional $34 million is targeted at existing facilities including renovation at Mariucci Arena. Fundraising now is over $100 million, with the goal of eventually privately raising the $200 million from individuals and others. “It’s breakfast, lunch, dinner fundraising,” said athletic director Mark Coyle.

About 200,000 construction hours have already gone into the Athletes Village, with facilities opening early next year. Sophie Skarzynski from the Gophers hockey team was among the speakers at a celebration progress event for donors, construction workers and others last week. She had the audience laughing with this remark for the construction crew: “It’s very comforting to know that not only the student-athletes are up at 5:30, but you guys are too.”

Reservations for the CORES program and lunch on Thursday, May 11 need to be made by Monday. Michele Tafoya, the sideline reporter on NBC TV’s Sunday Night Football who lives in suburban Minneapolis, will speak to the CORES crowd at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. Dick Jonckowski is the popular emcee at CORES programs. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans. More information is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, dotseth@comcast.net.

CORES attendees and other friends of Jonckowski will want to attend the Minnesota Minute Men’s roast of “The Polish Eagle,” who for 31 seasons was the Gophers basketball public address. Tickets remain for the event that starts at noon Friday at Jax Café. Scheduled roasters are Vikings executive Lester Bagley, former Gophers football star Jim Carter and WCHA men’s commissioner Bill Robertson. More information is available by calling Terry Sullivan, 952-451-2104, or at Minnesotaminutemen.com.

As the Vikings move through practices this spring and summer preparing for the season, a national storyline off the field will be the recovery progress of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from his devastating knee injury last year. Bridgewater is passionate about his rehab and has made progress but is far from having full mobility. A leader who is admired by teammates and coaches, it’s not yet clear whether the 24-year-old will ever return to the field—or if he does, when that will be.

Morris Area High School has been named the Minnesota Football Program of the year. The award is sponsored by the Minnesota Vikings, Innovative Office Solutions, the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation and KFAN 100.3 FM. A check for $10,000 will be presented to the school today, and on Sunday the award will be recognized as part of the Minnesota Football Honors Event at U.S. Bank Stadium. (See April 6 Sports Headliners).

While Target Center undergoes renovation this year, the Lynx are looking to make a marketing opportunity out of the franchise’s one season at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Chris Wright, president of the WNBA team and NBA Timberwolves, said about 20 percent of the team’s season ticket holders are from the St. Paul area, with most of the balance from Minneapolis and suburbs. “We’re going to grow our business in St. Paul,” Wright told Sports Headliners.

The Lynx has sold approximately 700 new “full season ticket equivalents” and expects to total around 3,600 or more.  Equivalents are full and partial season ticket packages. The Lynx, who play a opening exhibition game in St. Paul on Friday night, averaged almost 8,000 in attendance last season, tops in the WNBA, according to Wright. He expects corporate revenues to increase this year also.

There’s no consensus favorite to win Saturday’s 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Smart handicappers will be looking at experienced jockeys in predicting the winning horse. Canterbury Park will offer live racing on Saturday and wagering on the Derby. The Shakopee racetrack opens the 2017 meet on Friday night.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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