Hector Santiago will start for the Angels on Sunday night with a chance to win back the rotation spot he lost in early May, when he was demoted to the bullpen and then to triple-A Salt Lake, and to swing a bat for only the third time in his career.
Santiago, who went 0-6 with a 5.19 earned-run average in his first seven starts, was called up to replace the injured Tyler Skaggs and gave up three hits over six scoreless innings in Tuesday night’s 2-1, 14-inning win over Oakland.
The left-hander will have at least two more starts until Skaggs returns from a strained right hamstring, and if Santiago pitches well, he could retain his rotation spot, with right-hander Matt Shoemaker going to the bullpen or to Salt Lake.
The game in a National League park also gives Santiago an opportunity to distance himself from one of the more embarrassing moments of his career, when he appeared to forget he had to bat against the New York Mets in Citi Field on May 7, 2013.
Santiago, then with the Chicago White Sox, raced from the clubhouse to the dugout, grabbed the wrong bat and stepped into the box with no batting gloves, striking out against Matt Harvey in the sixth inning.
Santiago did little to dispel the notion that he forgot to hit, and that’s how the incident was portrayed by several media outlets, but there was more to the story.
“I threw a changeup to David Wright in the fifth inning and my back locked up,” Santiago said. “After the inning, I went to the trainer’s room to get my back cracked, not remembering I had to hit. I was more worried about pitching the next inning than my at-bat.”
Harvey, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning that day, got two quick outs in the sixth, and as Santiago finished up in the trainer’s room he heard someone screaming his name and saying that he was up next.
“I ran through the tunnel — it’s a really long tunnel from the clubhouse to the dugout there — got to the dugout, grabbed what I thought was my bat, and it was Adam Dunn’s bat, a 35-inch, 34-ounce model, a real log,” Santiago said.
“I got up to the plate and the umpire and the catcher both asked what happened. I told them I just forgot. A lot of people asked if I was in the bathroom.”
Santiago, who will pitch in a nationally televised ESPN game against the Braves on Sunday night, earned a spot on ESPN’s Not Top 10 that night, but he didn’t care.
“I was like, whatever, man,” Santiago said. “We get a laugh out of it every now and then.”