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Santana warming back up at the plate after a rough start with Twins

ANAHEIM, CALIF. – After Carlos Santana homered for the second consecutive game Friday, and added an RBI single, Carlos Correa walked up to Santana during a postgame interview with a simple message for anyone who wants to listen.

"He's back," Correa declared.

Santana had seven hits in his first 57 at-bats this season with 14 strikeouts and five walks. In his last six games, through Friday, he's totaled six hits in 22 at-bats with two homers, a double, four strikeouts and three walks.

The difference, Santana says, is he feels more comfortable in the batter's box.

"I'm looking for my pitch," he said. "I know myself. I know what kind of player I can be this season, so I don't try to do too much. I'm looking [to hit] up the middle all the time, so now I feel more comfortable."

Santana, the 38-year-old switch hitter, fell into a 0-2 count against Angels lefty Patrick Sandoval on Friday. He didn't chase a couple pitches below the strike zone before hammering a slider over the center-field wall. He scored his 1,000th career run on the homer, the ninth active player to reach that milestone.

In the sixth inning against Sandoval, Santana singled up the middle on a curveball to end a seven-pitch at-bat.

"I mean, this is not the first time in my career I started slow," said Santana, who entered Saturday with a .165 batting average and a .250 on-base percentage. "But into the year, I finish strong. I never stop. I'm working hard every day. I know the team might need me, and I need to put in the work to help my team."

The Twins signed Santana to a one-year, $5.25 million contract after they traded Jorge Polanco to the Seattle Mariners. They thought his defense at first base would be beneficial, and they're hoping he can stave off Father Time for another season.

"In my opinion, old age is a number," he said. "I feel good. I don't hurt. My body feels great. I'm feeling strong at the end of the first month."

Thielbar shuts door

Caleb Thielbar earned the second save of his career, and his first since June 23, 2022, when he recorded the final out in the Twins' 5-3 victory over the Angels on Friday.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli turned to the lefthanded Thielbar after Matt Bowman walked two batters in the ninth inning with a three-run lead. Thielbar surrendered an RBI single to Angels shortstop Zach Neto, a righthanded batter, before inducing a game-ending groundout against Mike Trout, another righty batter.

"He has the stuff to attack righties, so you don't go out there thinking you're just throwing a typical lefty at a righthanded lineup," Baldelli said. "You feel much better about it than that. He can compete and hold his own against anyone and get outs against anyone. I felt perfectly fine bringing him into the game knowing what he can do."

Etc.

Louie Varland allowed four hits and one run in five innings in his first Class AAA appearance since he was demoted from the Twins' starting rotation. He struck out five and issued one walk as the Saints were swept in a doubleheader against Rochester on Saturday, losing 3-2 in Game 1 and 8-7 in Game 2.

• Jhoan Duran struck out two batters in a clean inning for the Saints in the first game of the doubleheader. Hitters whiffed on six of their eight swings against the Twins closer, and Duran's fastball topped out at 102.9 mph. Baldelli said they haven't determined if he will make another rehab appearance or join the Twins in Chicago for their next road series.