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OAKLAND, CALIF. – Carlos Santana remembers how overwhelmed he became from the emotion of playing a major league game for the first time back on June 11, 2010. Facing fellow rookie Luis Atilano of Washington, Santana grounded out to second base in his first at-bat for Cleveland and finished the game 0-for-3 with a walk.

"I was so nervous my first at-bat. … I cried a lot with the emotion [that day]", Santana, 38, said Friday — the occasion of his 2,000th career game, a milestone reached by only 250 other players in major league history. "I think I'll be a little bit nervous today."

And maybe some tears?

"You never know," he said with a laugh. "The moment, we'll see. It's good. I'm very happy for me."

The Twins, victimized many times by the veteran over the past 14 seasons, are happy for him, too. And happy he's a Twin.

"He is still one of the best first basemen in the league, and he's still a good at-bat," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's kind of crazy when you actually think about things like that, look at what this guy's actually done in his career. It's admirable. It's just amazing. The guys in the clubhouse will enjoy patting him on the back, celebrating him today."

Though 2,000 games was never a goal of his, Santana said it's a natural product of the way he approaches the game.

"The more I play, the more I learn. Now I know how to prepare," said the former catcher, who has played at least 143 games in 10 consecutive seasons (excluding the pandemic year of 2020) and who has sat out only six games this year. "It takes a lot of time and a lot of sacrifice to prepare for every game and try to be ready. It's hard."

It's less difficult, he said, to get excited to play.

"Same energy and attitude — never put my head down," Santana said. "I'm a guy who's very positive, and I love the game. I love the game. I enjoy my teammates, enjoy the fans, my family. They support me. I love everything. That's why I'm here."

Only one active major leaguer, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen with 2,069, has played more games, though Joey Votto, currently in Toronto's minor league system, has appeared in 2,056. McCutcheon debuted one year before Santana, Votto three.

Santana also entered Friday hitting .364 this month with five home runs, giving him 12 for the year.

"I like celebrating guys who dedicate their lives to something and set an example for all the people around him. He's done all that and more," said Baldelli, who had the team purchase two bottles of high-priced Scotch Johnny Walker Blue, one as a give to Santana to mark the occasion, and the other to toast him with after he finishes Game No. 2,000. "He has a desire to play this game with a passion, and love every single day. He would do anything to take the field tomorrow and do it again. That's what we get from him every day, and I'm glad he's here."

Bullpens in play

Lefthander Kody Funderburk rejoined the Twins after being recalled from Class AAA St. Paul and immediately suffered a flashback.

Oakland Coliseum, Funderburk discovered, has foul-territory bullpens.

"Those on-field bullpens will get you. I hate them," he said.

He has recent scars that help explain it. While with the Saints in Louisville last week, "There was a situation where I had to get hot real quick," Funderburk said. "I threw two [warmup pitches] to the backstop. So I was like, 'This is just fantastic.' "

Twins lefty Caleb Thielbar noted, "You've got to worry about things when it's on the field. If you throw something in the dirt, they stop [the game]. Someone always has to protect the catcher. It's very annoying. I'm glad they're disappearing. Just got to get Tampa on the train now."


Max Kepler was not in the starting lineup Friday, one day after leaving a game with a sore neck. Baldelli said Kepler is day-to-day.

Matt Wallner homered for the 12th time this month and 18th overall with the Saints, a tiebreaking two-run shot in the fifth inning in a 4-2 victory over Toledo at CHS Field, extending their winning streak to 10. Randy Dobnak gave up one run on three hits and five walks in five innings.