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With age, Twins newcomer Carlos Santana shows impressive versatility

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Carlos Santana spent the first half of his major-league career playing in Cleveland. The second half has been spent ping-ponging around the country, joining different teams. Since late 2017, he has been with Philadelphia, Seattle, Cleveland again, Kansas City, Seattle again, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.

Now, after all that movement, the 37-year-old first baseman has found a new home in Minnesota for the upcoming season.

It’s tough, he readily admits, moving around so much, especially with three young kids. But it also means, he pointed out, that all these teams want him.

And part of the reason they want him — aside from the sturdy glove at first base and his offensive production, of course? Santana, who turns 38 on April 8, has been remarkably durable over the course of his career.

“I have a trainer. I have a kitchen, a guy that cooks for me,” Santana said. “I try to be healthy, not drink, sleeping good, eat healthy, a lot of work (on) my body. So that’s why I’ve been healthy all of my career.”

He has played in at least 150 games in nine seasons, and that doesn’t include the truncated 2020 season in which he played all 60 games.

“The best ability is your availability” is a commonly uttered phrase within the walls of the Twins’ clubhouse, and the switch hitter is almost always available, despite his age.

“When you’re 40 years old, your body can break down on you,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He has been so durable, that’s what I think allows him to take the field productively. He puts in the work.”

Staying healthy goes far beyond the work he puts in when he gets to the ballpark. Santana has a trainer, who he works with in Tampa, Fla. He also has a chef who cooks for him.

His chef lives with him and travels with him as well. And refining his eating habits, Santana said, has made a difference in his ability to stay healthy. He’s mostly eating Dominican food “but healthy,” he said — mangú, a dish of boiled and mashed plantains, is a favorite.

The routine that has kept him on the field all this time is an ever-changing one, adapted each year as he ages.

“I have to change because every year … I’m more old, so when you’re more old, you have to work more,” he said. “Work more, better approach for everything.”

The biggest change this year?

“I sleep more,” Santana said.

He’s shooting now for eight hours a day rather than the six or seven that he used to get. Before night games, he likes to sneak in a 45-minute nap during the day.

Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.

Only one player currently signed to a major-league contract has appeared in more games than him (Andrew McCutchen at 2,007). Santana should reach his milestone 2,000th game played — he is currently at 1,930 — this season, another testament to his durability.

“He works really hard,” Baldelli said. “He also has the body that bounces back, that allows him to do it. He’s (37) now? He’s almost 40 years old, and he can put on the reps that allow him to stay sharp. Most people who are 39 years old cannot do that. It’s very difficult to get them out there, regardless of sport, regardless of drill. You just can’t work your body that much.”

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