The Angels played the San Diego Padres on Sunday afternoon, and major league teams have reached the point of spring training where starting pitchers often hit, so Hector Santiago came to the ballpark thinking he’d get to intersperse his start with some at-bats.
“Are we raking today?” Santiago asked the Angels’ coaches. “Let’s go. Where’s my bat?”
When he found out second baseman Johnny Giavotella would be the designated hitter, he continued the effort: “Johnny’s been hitting all week. Let him have a break. Let him enjoy this Sunday.”
He did not win the argument.
“I hit all the time. I love it,” Santiago said. “I can’t wait to put up a cage in my house and put a machine in there. I’ll be hitting all day, especially one of those automatic feeders where I don’t have to worry about it. I’ll just be out there all night. Honestly, if I had a cage in my house right now, I would’ve hit for three hours.”
In 13 career major league at-bats, Santiago has two hits. During his second career at-bat, in May 2013 against the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey, he emerged from the dugout late, apologized to the umpire and quickly stepped into the batter’s box and fouled back the first pitch he saw.
During the off-season, he installed a tee and net in the backyard of his home in nearby Goodyear, Ariz. On most nights before he has pitched this spring, he’s taken around 100 cuts to let out excess energy.
In Sunday’s start against San Diego, his sixth of spring training, Santiago finished five innings, striking out five without issuing a walk. He permitted two home runs, both solo, keeping his Cactus League earned-run average at 3.52.
Walks were part of his undoing in the second half of 2015, when he followed up an All-Star first half with a 5.47 ERA. He walked 34 men in 108 1/3 first-half innings, and 37 in 72 1/3 innings after the All-Star break.
Santiago figures to begin 2016 as the Angels’ No. 3 starter, meaning his debut would come April 7 against Texas. He is expected to start Friday’s Freeway Series game at Dodger Stadium, and then get an extra day of rest before the regular season.
The team has not yet told him those plans, but he does not mind.
“I just don’t want to go into this season with too many days off,” Santiago said.