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Ervin Santana to start slowly but surely for White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox made the signing of right-hander Ervin Santana to a minor-league contract official with an invitation to spring training, although it remained unclear whether the two-time All-Star will be ready by Opening Day.

Santana, who will be the ninth-highest-paid Sox player and second-highest-paid starting pitcher behind Ivan Nova ($9.2 million) at $4.3 million if he makes the major-league roster, was 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 211 innings in 2017 for the Twins. But he missed most of last season with an injured middle finger, and as of his first day with the club Saturday, he was behind other pitchers.

“I threw my second bullpen today, so everything is getting better,” Santana said. “I take it one day at a time and see what happens.”

The Sox will have a better handle on Santana’s status after a couple of weeks, general manager Rick Hahn said.

“We’ll see; it’s Day 1 today,” Hahn said. “We’ll have a better answer on that around March 10.”

Santana’s velocity was down a tick or two, in the low 90s, last year, but it’s reasonable to assume his finger was a factor, he said.

“It was difficult because when you have finger issues, you’re not going to be able to hold the grip the way you want to and throw the ball the way you want to,’’ Santana said. “So it was frustrating.’’

Santana was assigned the open locker between Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso, the one presumably being held open for free agent Manny Machado, who chose the Padres over the Sox and was introduced by San Diego on Friday.

“Nice addition,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “We’ve got a couple of guys in camp [Santana, Manny Banuelos, Dylan Covey] who are going to be vying for a fifth spot. Gives us some flexibility. Look forward to seeing how he’s doing.’’

Moncada at the hot corner

Making the transition from second base to third base, Yoan Moncada got no action in the field against the Athletics in Mesa.

“Yeah, I was waiting for one; I really wanted one just to see how the situation is,” he said.

Renteria believes playing third will help Moncada lock in better at the plate.

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“It’s definitely true what he said,” Moncada said. “Playing third will definitely help me focus more on the offensive side.”

So far, so good on that front. Moncada doubled leading off the game against former Sox right-hander Chris Bassitt and singled in his first two at-bats.

This and that

Outfielder Preston Tucker, 28, was signed to a minor-league contract with an invite to camp. Tucker is a career .222 hitter with 23 home runs in 243 games with the Astros, Braves and Reds.

† After Bernardo Flores starts Sunday against the Padres, Banuelos, Jimmy Lambert and Reynaldo Lopez are slated for the next three starts. Dylan Cease is not on the early pitching schedule as the Sox bring him along slowly out of the gate.