Santiago focused on starting, awaiting return

Santiago focused on starting, awaiting return

Santiago focused on starting, awaiting return
CHICAGO -- When Hector Santiago made his first start for Triple-A Charlotte last Friday, the left-hander took a different approach from his 2012 bullpen time with the White Sox.

"I threw five different pitches to the first batter of the game," Santiago told during a recent phone interview. "They wanted me to work on stuff, so I'm going to throw all of my pitches as much as I can.

"That was something the catcher didn't really expect me to do. But I want to get all of my pitches better, instead of going fastball happy. I threw a lot more strikes and got my offspeed [pitches] working."

Santiago caught the organization's attention from his first live batting practice in Spring Training and began the season as the team's closer. He was successfully working in long relief when optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on July 30 to make room for Francisco Liriano.

The roster move came down to Santiago or fellow southpaw Leyson Septimo, and with Septimo out of options, Santiago had an idea of what was coming. But the move to Charlotte also served a present and future purpose for Santiago's desired career path.

His second start for Charlotte on Wednesday in Indianapolis figures to go four or five innings or 65 or 70 pitches, after he threw 52 pitches and three scoreless innings in his first start and then followed up that effort with a 15-pitch bullpen. Santiago could be a long reliever when he's called up for roster expansion in September, if not sooner, and joins Philip Humber as potential spot-starters for this team making a playoff push.

In the future, as soon as 2013, Santiago could challenge for a full-time rotation spot. His present focus remains on helping out again in 2012.

"If they need me [Friday] after I throw Wednesday, I'll be ready," said Santiago, who had a 3.66 ERA and four saves in 32 games for the White Sox. "This is all part of the process, stretching out and getting more innings. Anything is possible whenever I get back up there, whether it's spot-start or long relief."