John Lackey is emerging as the leader of the rotation in the absence of Bartolo Colon and will likely be called to start against the Rangers on April 2 when the Angels host Texas to open the season.
But Santana has quickly secured a spot in the rotation since joining the staff in May of 2005 and was the team leader in wins last season with 16. Over his two years in the Majors, Santana has 28 wins, which made him a target of a number of trade overtures during the offseason.
The Angels didn't bite and Santana did his part by resting his valuable right arm after tossing 204 innings last season. He also avoided winter ball for the second straight year to concentrate on being fresh for the season.
"Just take more rest and like last year it was the first time I threw that many innings so I took a great rest and sort of run, play catch and that's about it," Santana said.
In 2005, Santana threw a then-career-high 192 innings. A year earlier, the 24-year-old suffered a strained right elbow but the Angels have been impressed with Santana's ability to handle the load.
"We're not going to set any artificial boundaries but there comes a time when you know that a guy needs to be pushed back or shut down and fortunately these guys -- Santana, [Jered] Weaver, [Joe] Saunders -- these guys have all been able to answer the bell for a long season and that's a good sign," manager Mike Scioscia said.
Smooth move: Brandon Wood got his first look at third base Thursday, taking about 45 ground balls. The club will work out its top position prospect there this spring in the hope that Wood can make the switch quickly and fill a weak spot on the Angels' depth chart.
"It is not going to be a tough transition at all," Scioscia said. "He should pick up the position quickly."
Wood is asking anyone in camp who will lend their knowledge of third base. He's working primarily with infield coach Alfredo Griffin and roving infield instructor Rob Picciolo, in addition to asking advice from Minor League field coordinator Bruce Hines, Double-A coach Keith Johnson, and players Dallas McPherson and Chone Figgins.
"I'm all ears when I can learn something," Wood said. "When you come into a new job you want to be as prepared as you can."
Wood, who hit a total of 57 homers in 2005 at Class A and the Arizona Fall League and another 25 last season in Arkansas, is a potential power source the Angels would like to tap. He said he heard from outside the organization that he would eventually be moved to third base and welcomes the move if it gets him to the Majors more quickly.
At shortstop he has the entire view from behind the pitcher and has more time to field the ball but added Thursday's workout was positive.
"I felt I was right on point," Wood said. "From the first day there are adjustments but as an infielder you know where you need to be."
Third home: The Angels greatly value Figgins' versatility but remain hopeful this season their intrepid utilityman can make, if not a home at third base, at least a primary residence. But depending on depth, Figgins could also play some games in the outfield.
"I think the lion's share of third base we're hoping Figgy is going to absorb but from time to time we might need his versatility," Scioscia said. "It could be a case where it doesn't affect him to get out there on an occasional basis to give us a deeper offensive lineup from time to time. We're going to consider that."
Robb Quinlan is projected as a reserve outfielder with another reserve role open to the winner of the competition being held by Nick Gorneault, Tommy Murphy, Reggie Willits and possibly Terry Evans. Scioscia said Figgins could move to the outfield on days that either Vladimir Guerrero or Garret Anderson is the designated hitter.
Asides: Catcher Brent Del Chiaro had three pins inserted on the tip of the middle finger of his right hand during a surgical procedure Wednesday in Los Angeles. He suffered the injury Monday during catching drills and has returned to Arizona, where he will be re-examined in three weeks. ... Colon (rotator cuff) and Weaver (biceps tendinitis) threw for the second straight day Thursday.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.