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Tales from the Pen: Hector Santiago

Chicago White Sox Pitcher Hector Santiago

Chicago White Sox pitcher Hector Santiago made his MLB debut in 2011, when he pitched 5.1 innings, and didn’t give up a run. In 2012, he started four games, pitched 70.1 innings and struck out 79. This year, he’s building on that success, working out of the White Sox bullpen. He’s turned quite a few heads already this season with his spotless ERA over 10.2 innings, and his WHIP sits nicely at 0.47.

ESPN’s Buster Olney made comment of Santiago’s solid start in a tweet this week:

Still 25-years-old, Santiago appears ready to take on a support role in the pen, or as a spot-starter of great value to the White Sox. Santiago likes his role, though, as you’ll discover.

I had a chance to chat with Santiago this evening and I asked him a handful of questions ranging from silly, to serious, to downright-baseball. Here’s what he had to say.

SJN: How do you get ready for a game? Any rituals?

HS: I wear two pairs of socks and two sliders for every game. Besides that, nothing. I just try to relax and be chill and when it’s time to pitch, I go.

SJN: If you could strike out one batter, who would it be?

HS: Derek Jeter, because he’s fouled off every pitch I’ve thrown him, and then hit a bomb off of me.  He’s an amazing star and that would be one great memory. Also, Jeter was the guy when I was growing up. He was the man. I watched him play for years. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer.

SJN: You were pretty successful as a starter in 2012, and now you’re repeating the success out of the pen. Which role do you prefer?

HS: I like this swing man, Swiss Army knife, chameleon role they have given me. I like that I can start one day and in 2 days go back to the pen.

SJN: Batters hit .198 off of you at home, but they hit .172 off of you when you’re on the road. Secrets to success on the road?

HS: I don’t like their fans cheering them on. I like to silence the crowd.

SJN: How clearly do you remember your first Major League strikeout?

HS: Very. I went strike one, than went 3-1, 3-2, and strike 3 swinging on a 95-mph fastball against Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals.

SJN: How do you feel about the DH rule? Should the NL adopt it?

HS: No, because guys like me still want to hit and I would love to when I’m pitching.

SJN:  Are you taking extra BP this year due to the extra AL-NL games?

HS: Yes, I finally have gotten chances to hit on the field. I’ve hit five times already.

SJN: Changing topics. How do you feel about baseball in the community? Do you think baseball helps people heal after events like what happened in Boston this week?

HS: Yes I do believe that. I visited Newtown in January and I felt like I made an impact on kids and teachers and families that attended. It brightens their day up when they see that the sport supports them.

SJN: Is there something about baseball in particular that invites people to come together more than other sports?

HS: More games. I think it’s not only one day, one city. There’s multiple games. And more time to interact with players During BP.

SJN: The whole world saw what happened to Zack Greinke last week. How much time have you spent considering what to do if charged by a batter?

HS:  Drop kick!!

SJN: Who were your favorite pitchers, growing up?

HS: John Franco, Andy Pettitte.

SJN: If you could change one thing about the game of baseball, what would it be?

HS: Two strikes for a strike out.

SJN: I should have known you were going to say that. What teams are you looking forward to facing this year?

HS: The Mets. I grew up a Mets fan.

SJN: And you have a chance to get your first hit there, how exciting is that?

HS: That would be awesome –  in front of my family.

SJN: Just curious: were you ever forced to wear a funny backpack by older members in the pen?

HS: No, not yet. We have had a good group of guys who haven’t done that yet.

SJN: Lastly: What is your message to young pitchers trying to make it to the Major Leagues.

HS: Throw strikes. First pitch strike. Two of the first three pitches for strikes. Get ahead, stay ahead, and then finish them. Less, sometimes, is more. Not everything is velocity. Better stuff to the glove is sometimes better than better stuff (stuff meaning velocity). Focus, conviction, hard work, hope, determination, believe, trust and have faith and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Just a few words that got me through the minor league grind. Especially family, family is key; you need their support.

Follow Hector on Twitter @HecSantiago53

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