BOSTON – White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper didn’t mince words venting about Hector Santiago’s latest bout with wildness. And while he was at it, Cooper couldn’t help but question shortstop Alexei Ramirez’s approach at the plate during the first inning of Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.
First, Santiago, who walked five and got pulled in the fourth inning Friday after throwing a whopping 101 pitches:
“Walks suck. Walks suck. Walks suck,’’ Cooper said. “Unacceptable. That’s not a good game. That’s a messy game. That wouldn’t work in A ball. It’s not going to work against any good team in the [bleeping] big leagues. Every inning last night was a problem so it wasn’t a good game by him.’’
Cooper was also annoyed by Ramirez hitting a double-play grounder to shortstop on the first pitch he saw from Ryan Dempster, who had walked Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham to start the game.
“Compiled with we get that first inning, [bleep], you get two on via the walk and first pitch [is a double play],’’ Cooper said. “Now come on. Some of the stuff that is showing up in games, it’s just we got to eliminate it.
“We cannot give teams runs. We aren’t that good. We gave them runs because our pitcher was unable to throw consistent strikes. I expect to get better and not worse as the season is going on.’’
Cooper can’t be faulted for his frustration. Sox pitchers have been backed by a defense that ranks 13th in the American League in fielding percentage and an offense that ranks last in runs. He and the pitching staff have taken the high road all season long by not calling anyone out for a lack of support.
Manager Robin Ventura protects his players publicly, and he stopped short of criticizing Ramirez after the game for not taking at least a pitch in that situation.
“You know, if it’s a hit everybody’s happy and if he hits into a double play everybody is scratching their heads,’’ Ventura said
Santiago (4-8, 3.43) is at 133 2/3 innings in his first year as a starter and second in the majors.
“It’s making me think that maybe he’s hitting a little bit of a wall physically and we are going to have to come up with something,” Cooper said. “I expect guys to be able to get up on Christmas Eve and throw the [bleeping] thing over the plate. And make them swing the bat.
“This is the Major Leagues. We can’t have … he’s shooting to try to be a starter. He’s done well in many cases and he’s had some games like that. We are seeing inconsistency. This is his first crack at this so I came in to it thinking there was going to be inconsistency. We have time left, but he’s trying to be a starter and we can’t have a starter who we are concerned that he can’t throw it over.”
Santiago has good stuff, as 129 strikeouts would indicate. And he has walked 65 with random streaks of wildness.
“Tools are great,” Cooper said. “Let me tell you something. Good arm tools, the road sides are strewn in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the United States of guys that had good arms that couldn’t throw it over. He’s a major league pitcher. He’s trying to be a starting major league pitcher which is in charge of 120 [pitches].
“There have been many games where he has done well. Last night might have been the worst I can remember. That’s painful to watch. We just spoke about it out there.”
Cooper, who almost always defends his pitchers, wants to see Santiago succeed.
“This is a wonderful opportunity. You have to try to seize being one of the starters while you have some starts left to try to nail that down period. If I was to assess him right now, successful season, good season, great season. He’s done every role (start, middle relief, short relief] for us.
“I want it to happen so bad that that’s where my frustration comes in. I want him to succeed. We are making real good head way there and you know sometimes players get [ticked] off and frustrated as well and so do coaches.
“That’s where I was last night. Now I’m back to going back to work and in five or six days he’ll be out there again and we have to try to improve. That’s what we are always trying to do.”