Santiago more aggressive in scoreless outing

After shaky first four starts with Twins, lefty tosses 6 1/3 solid innings in no-decision

Santiago more aggressive in scoreless outing

CLEVELAND -- When the Twins traded for left-hander Hector Santiago at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, they looked at it as an upgrade to their rotation, given his history.

Santiago came over with a career 3.68 ERA and a 4.25 ERA on the year with the Angels, but the immediate results weren't pretty, as he went 0-4 with a 10.89 ERA in his first four starts with Minnesota. But after an extra three days of rest for Santiago, who admitted he was dealing with a bruised left thumb, he looked like his old self against the Indians on Monday. It ended in another hard-luck, 1-0 loss in 10 innings to extend Minnesota's losing streak to 11 games, but Santiago tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings, scattering three hits and four walks.

"I think I pitched smart today in a sense that I didn't give in to certain guys and made pitches when I needed to in big situations," Santiago said. "So this is what I want to do and what I know I can do. It's been rough the last couple weeks, but hopefully we're on the right road now."

Santiago blamed his struggles on a change in mentality and mechanics after changing teams, as he focused too much on avoiding walks and being efficient instead of throwing quality pitches. He didn't walk a batter in his last two starts, but he also gave up a combined 15 runs and four homers. So in his last bullpen session, he focused on what he needed to do to get back to what had been working for him.

"I told myself I hadn't worried about a walk all year, and I pitched fine," Santiago said. "I've given up six walks in six innings and still got a win. So the walks aren't the issue. It's leaving pitches over the middle of the plate. So I was aggressive, and when I missed, I missed off."

Twins catcher Juan Centeno said he noticed the difference with Santiago, who was more aggressive with his fastball and wasn't afraid to pitch inside.

"He had good fastball command," Centeno said. "He was pitching in a lot. We got those guys off-balance a little bit. Early in the game, we used a fastball-changeup combo, but then we mixed in his curveball. But he was throwing that fastball with good command."

Santiago added his thumb improved with the extra time off, but that it still can affect his offspeed pitches, especially his curveball.

"It definitely helped," Santiago said. "It's still there and I felt it on one breaking ball, but I made some adjustments with the baseball to help relieve some of the pressure on my finger."

After the Twins gave up at least eight runs in six straight games, Twins manager Paul Molitor was relieved by Santiago's performance, even in a loss. He also noted that fellow lefties Andrew Albers and Pat Dean, who follow Santiago in the rotation, can learn from his outing.

"Both guys are fairly studious, and I'm sure they paid attention to how he approached these guys," Molitor said. "Hector did a nice job of using his fastball. He didn't have to throw too many curveballs but mixed in some changeups and cutters. He got out of some situations to help keep the game scoreless."

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.