Worries about walks hampering Santiago

Worries about walks hampering Santiago

KANSAS CITY -- In Hector Santiago's final six starts with the Angels before he was traded to the Twins on Aug. 1, he was 6-0 with a 1.78 ERA. But since joining Minnesota, he's struggled mightily, a rough stretch that continued on Saturday against the Royals.

Santiago turned in his worst outing yet, allowing eight runs on 11 hits, including three homers, in 4 2/3 innings in a 10-0 loss at Kauffman Stadium. In four starts with the Twins, Santiago is 0-4 with a 10.89 ERA, having surrendered 23 runs in 19 innings, with seven homers.

"He's trying to work into a rhythm here in his early starts, and it's a combination of things," manager Paul Molitor said. "He's leaving pitches over the middle of the plate in hitter's counts. There were certain times where he had open bases and he could have made better pitches, but they took advantage of the mistakes."

Santiago agreed with Molitor's assessment, saying he's focused too hard on limiting walks and that it's caused him to miss over the plate instead of allowing for his usual style of being effectively wild.

Santiago, who led the league in walks allowed prior to the trade, hasn't walked a batter in his last two starts but has given up 15 runs in 8 2/3 innings.

"I'm trying not to put extra guys on base [via walks], but I'm also leaving pitches over the middle the plate," Santiago said. "I'm in a spot where I'm more worried about throwing strikes than getting guys to chase."

Santiago hasn't gone deeper than 5 1/3 innings in any of his four outings with Minnesota, and the Twins were looking for a long outing on Saturday after Friday's marathon of a game, which saw Molitor use five relievers in an 11-inning loss. But Santiago could not deliver, hurt by a three-run third and a five-run fifth.

He has allowed 27 homers this season and was plagued by the long ball yet again, as he served up a solo homer to Alex Gordon in the fourth before giving up back-to-back blasts in the fifth to Salvador Perez and Gordon.

Santiago, who had a 4.25 ERA in 22 starts with the Angels this season and was an All-Star in 2015, was thought to be an upgrade over Ricky Nolasco, but it hasn't panned out that way, and he has to prove himself the rest of the way, as he's headed into his final year of arbitration and could be a non-tender candidate if he doesn't turn it around.

But he is staying optimistic, saying he'll continue to work on his mechanics in his next bullpen session to try to get it rolling the way he did in July, when he averaged 3.5 walks per game but had a 1.78 ERA.

"I try to take the positives out of things," he said. "It was another low-pitch-count game. I know it's getting better. No walks, which is always a good sign. But I have to bear down and not throw it right over the plate."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.