Santana eager to negotiate new deal with Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Despite the fact the he won't be a free agent until after the 2008 season, Johan Santana says that the Minnesota Twins should try to sign him to a long-term extension sooner rather than later.

"If Minnesota wants to keep me, the earlier the better for a contract negotiation," Santana told ESPNdeportes.com. "The closer I get to free agency the more difficult it will be."

The native of Venezuela won his second AL Cy Young award in three years in 2006, taking the pitching triple crown in the junior circuit with 19 victories, a 2.77 ERA and 245 strikeouts. In addition, Santana led the league in starts (34) and innings pitched (232).

Santana will make $12.2 million this season, the third of a four-year, $39.7 million deal he signed with the Twins in February 2005.

"I'm happy the way things have gone in Minnesota and I'd like to stay here for a long time, but if I do opt for free agency, my agent will be the one in charge of the next contract," said Santana. "I'm not really concerned with the specifics of what we'd ask for right now, because I've still got two years left with the Twins … but after that, whatever has to happen will happen."

Santana gave up three hits and one run in two innings against the Red Sox in his spring training debut in Florida on Sunday, losing to Curt Schilling and Boston 6-1. The left-hander was unusually wild, walking three of the 10 batters he faced.

"I felt good, especially being that it was my first start since last year's playoffs," he said. "My arm and legs were fine. This is just the first spring training start."

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.