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Santana makes first career start in center

Santana makes first career start in center

MINNEAPOLIS -- With Aaron Hicks struggling at the plate, rookie Danny Santana made his first career start in center field on Tuesday against the Red Sox.

Santana, a natural shortstop, has 23 games of experience in center field in the Minors, but none since playing two games there in 2012. He played three innings in center in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Tigers, as he delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh and replaced Hicks in center.

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he wanted to get Santana's bat in the lineup, as he's off to a hot start, hitting .421 with three doubles in the first seven games of his career. Gardenhire added Santana spent time doing early work in center field before Sunday's game and again on Tuesday.

"He moves really well and sees the ball well," Gardenhire said. "He played it in the Minor Leagues. So we're happy with him. He brings some life to us. He can run, he can throw. He can do it."

Hicks, meanwhile, has been mired in a slump, and is hitting just .160/.303/.235 with one homer and three doubles in 27 games. Gardenhire said he'll still find time to give Hicks starts in center field, but wanted to give him a break on Tuesday.

"He's fighting it," Gardenhire said. "His numbers are just not there right now. He needs to use the whole field a bit better. He's pull happy sometimes and overswings a little bit. But it's just some of the things young hitters go through. So we're just trying to go with guys who can get on base against the Red Sox, who are a very good team. But Hicksy will get his chances."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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