Inefficiency simply a part of the package with Santiago

Inefficiency simply a part of the package with Santiago

ANAHEIM -- The reason C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago aren't slotted back-to-back in the Angels' rotation has little to do with the fact they're both left-handed and almost everything to do with pitch efficiency.

Among pitchers who threw at least 120 innings last year, Santiago ranked fourth and Wilson ranked seventh in pitches per inning, which means starting them on back-to-back days could burn out the Angels' bullpen.

Wilson offered up an encouraging start in his debut on Tuesday, throwing eight shutout innings with less than 100 pitches for the first time in his career. But Santiago needed 100 pitches to record only 16 outs in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Royals on Friday night.

Pitch efficiency doesn't come easy for the 27-year-old lefty.

"He's tried," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Santiago. "I think he's tried his whole life. Hector has a really good arm. He's got a delivery with a little deception. At times, it's herky-jerky. At times the ball is sneaky, and that release point, he works to try to stay in sync. Part of what makes him a little bit deceptive is how he releases the ball. At times there's an inefficiency there that he pays a price for."

Santiago found plenty of encouragement in the Angels' home opener, which saw him give up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked only one batter, after averaging 4.3 walks per nine innings over the last three years. And he threw 66 percent of his pitches for strikes, after sporting a strike percentage of 62 percent from 2012-14.

If he keeps filling up the strike zone, Santiago believes, hitters will be more aggressive against his assortment of pitches, and he'll start generating more early contact.

But in some form, he'll always have to deal with a high pitch count.

"It's something I live with," Santiago said. "I don't think I could've done anything better today. I threw first-pitch strikes to most guys. They fouled it off, they didn't put it in play. You want me to make worse pitches? That's all I can say. I'll take the long innings and the battles as long as I'm putting zeros on the board. I'm not going to change anything right now because I'm throwing strikes and everything is working."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.