On the day Angels pitchers and catchers held their first spring-training workout, Ervin Santana reported to camp a wealthy young man, agreeing to terms Saturday on a four-year, $30-million deal.
The contract includes a $13-million option for 2013 that can be bought out for $1 million. If the option is exercised, the Angels would secure one of their top young pitchers through all three of his arbitration years and his first two years of free agency.
Santana, 26, struggled so much in 2007 (7-14, 5.76 earned-run average) that he was demoted to triple A that July, but the right-hander had a bounce-back 2008, going 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA and making the American League All-Star team.
“We felt comfortable with Ervin’s ability to win games, be a good teammate and represent the club in a very positive way,” General Manager Tony Reagins said. “This provides stability for his family and provides us with a quality pitcher who has a tremendous upside. . . . And we don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
Santana’s arbitration hearing, scheduled for Friday, was postponed while Reagins and Santana’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, hammered out the final details of the contract.
Negotiations between the sides went a lot smoother than last winter, when Reagins and Stringfellow couldn’t agree on a salary and the Angels renewed Santana for $420,000, a cut from the $425,000 he made in 2007.
“I’m very happy,” said Santana, who opted not to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic next month. “I want to work hard and prove why I got the contract; that’s what I’m going to do.”
Top young players can usually make more going year to year through arbitration instead of signing long-term deals. “But to me, the difference is, the security is better,” Santana said.
“You know you’re going to be here for four more years instead of playing for one year. I feel good about that. . . . I’m comfortable with it because I’m the one who makes the decision.”
Santana, who mixes a 95-mph fastball with a slider and changeup, established career bests last season with 219 innings and 214 strikeouts. He had a career-low ERA and tied a career high for wins. With a 51-37 record in four seasons, he is the youngest active major leaguer with at least 50 wins.
Under his new contract, Santana will make $3.8 million this season, $6 million in 2010, $8 million in 2011 and $11.2 million in 2012.
Mike Napoli felt “an impingement” in his shoulder for several months after undergoing surgery to clean up his labrum and rotator cuff in November, and the catcher will be held out of rigorous throwing drills for several weeks.
Napoli, who hit .273 with 20 home runs in 78 games last season, admitted there is a chance he might not be ready to catch by the start of the regular season but is encouraged by the fact he hasn’t felt discomfort for two weeks.
“I’d love to be able to start the season, but I have to be smart and not rush anything,” Napoli said. “I want to get on the field and not have any setbacks. Right now, I need to get the inflammation and the pinch out of my shoulder before I start throwing.”
Napoli said the shoulder doesn’t bother him when he’s hitting. He will participate in some drills and strengthen his shoulder through exercise. He probably will begin throwing in a week or two.
Ahead of the curve
Kelvim Escobar, who missed all of 2008, has extended his long-toss program to 200 feet and is far ahead of schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery.
The Angels were expecting the right-hander to return around the All-Star break, “but I think I can get ready before that,” Escobar said. “I’m ready to get on a mound right now. I feel great, and as soon as [the Angels] see me throw, they will find out.”
The Angels already have the makings of a solid rotation with John Lackey, Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver, but the fifth spot is a bit of a question, with Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart, Anthony Ortega and Shane Loux competing for the job.
A sound Escobar, who went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 2007, would provide a huge boost.
“We felt he’d almost be like a midseason acquisition -- you have a healthy Escobar, and it’s like a pretty good trade you made,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Right now, it looks like his window could be moved up a bit, which is obviously a positive.”