Santiago accepts relief role with White Sox

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Hector Santiago throws during a spring training baseball game, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Left-hander Hector Santiago came to White Sox camp as a non-roster invitee with the idea of competing for a job in the rotation. And even though he has pitched consistently better than Carson Fulmer, he gets why Fulmer is penciled in to be the Sox’ fifth starter coming out of spring training.

“I thought I had a chance to compete for the fifth starting job, that’s what they told me coming in,” said Santiago, who made the AL All-Star team as a starter with the Angels in 2015.

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“I think it’s part of their plan. Give him a shot, why not? He’s going to be part of their future. I’ll go in the pen; I have no problem with that.”

Fulmer (1-4, 11.84 ERA this spring), after bouncing back from early-spring struggles with four hitless innings against the Diamondbacks five days ago, had another good outing Saturday, albeit against Rangers minor-leaguers. He allowed one run, on a solo homer, in 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two.

Santiago, who strung together three scoreless innings with six strikeouts after giving up a three-run homer to the Dodgers’ Austin Barnes in the first inning of the Sox’ 7-3 win Saturday, wrapped up his spring with a 2.25 ERA. He touched 93 mph again, confirmation that he’s back in good health after working through back issues with the Twins and Class AAA Rochester last season.

“I threw so many innings last year in Triple-A on a rehab [assignment],” Santiago said. “I tried to get after it, my arm felt great and the back felt OK, but it just wasn’t there, topping out at 91, but for the most part I sat around 86. So it was a big jump this year.”

Santiago, who has been supportive and encouraging to Fulmer this spring, walked three and gave up four hits. He finished the spring with 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 innings covering six appearances, including two starts.

Fulmer sharp in minor-league game

Fulmer found out this week the fifth starter’s spot was his, which took some pressure off, he said.

“A really good day for me,’’ Fulmer said.

Fellow starters Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez sat behind the plate on the minor-league field to help Fulmer assess his changeup. Fulmer said it was evidence of “the brotherhood we have here. We all want to have success as an organization. We want to win championships.’’

Relief in sight

Continued good relief outings came from right-hander Nate Jones, who touched 98 mph in his seventh scoreless appearance of the spring; left-hander Luis Avilan, who posted his sixth scoreless outing despite issuing his first walk; and lefty Aaron Bummer (scoreless inning, 3.60 ERA).

On deck

Brewers at White Sox, Glendale, Junior Guerra vs. Chris Volstad, 2:05 p.m. Sunday, NBCSCH+, 720-AM.

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