GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ervin Santana retired Manny Machado five times in five plate appearances Friday morning.
Give that man a spot in the rotation!
The fifth starter’s job seemed to be Santana’s to lose before his five innings with one run allowed against Machado’s Padres in a B game in Peoria. And this outing — on a back field in spring training — did nothing to hurt the two-time All-Star’s chances.
Machado, of course, is the $300 million free agent whom the Sox pursued but came up short trying to reel in this offseason.
Santana’s outing, coincidentally, unfolded about the same time that right-hander Juan Minaya, an effective pitcher in the Sox’ bullpen the last two seasons, was outrighted to Class AAA Charlotte after he cleared waivers. Minaya was ineffective in Cactus League outings this spring. His velocity — 90-92 mph, according to scouts — was well below his customary mid-90s range, and he allowed 11 runs (all earned) and 12 hits over five appearances covering 4 2/3 innings (21.21 ERA). Last season, he had a career-best 3.28 ERA and 52 appearances, striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. In 2017, working as the Sox’ ninth-inning option after closer David Robertson was traded to the Yankees, Minaya collected nine saves.
Moving him off the 40-man roster opens a needed spot — quite possibly for Santana, 36, who was signed to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training and a chance to earn $4.3 million if he makes the team.
That looks like a foregone conclusion for Santana, who allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three. B games are played loosely by the rules, which explains Machado batting five times.
Santana has not appeared in a Cactus League game, and there’s a good chance he’ll open the season on the disabled list as he works his way back from surgery on his middle finger for an injury that limited him to five games last season.
“Everything is feeling good. Everything is getting better,” Santana said this week. “No pain.”
When healthy, Santana has been a reliable workhorse with All-Star quality performances in two seasons, including 2017 with the Twins. He seems to know he’ll be ready when needed, which might not be until April 10, with the Sox having three off days in the first nine days of the season. He appears relaxed, comfortable and at ease in his new environment with the Sox and says he’s fine not having pitched in a Cactus League game.
“I take them one at a time, and when that time comes, I’ll be ready for it,” he said.
If Santana opens the season on the DL, the Sox would likely break camp with eight relief pitchers and four bench players.
“We’re probably talking about [that roster configuration],” manager Rick Renteria said. “We’ll have to watch the next few days and see how it develops. Is it possible? It’s possible.”
NOTES: The Sox reassigned 29-year-old right-hander Randall Delgado to minor-league camp after he allowed six runs and eight hits, including four home runs, and three walks over five relief appearances. Delgado, a non-roster invitee to camp, has a 4.10 career ERA over 146 major-league games, including 126 starts.
• Renteria on outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3-ranked prospect who was sent to minor-league camp this week but will likely get called up in late April: “He’s going to go down [to Class AAA Charlotte], he’s going to work on his timing, continue to work on defense and you know we have no doubt he gets himself back on a roll. He’s going to be absolutely fine.”