PEORIA, Ariz. – Left-hander Hector Santiago said he never wanted to leave the White Sox, but that’s baseball. He was dealt away in a three-team trade that netted Adam Eaton in December 2013, but now he’s back, trying to win a spot on the 2018 pitching staff.
“You put your uniform on in spring training, and you know you’re back home,’’ Santiago said, “but it doesn’t get real until you get back out there in a game.’’
That happened Saturday, when Santiago started the Sox’ second Cactus League game of the spring and worked two scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory over the Mariners. The box score shows five singles, but two didn’t leave the infield, and two more (one by former Sox infielder Gordon Beckham) were on the soft side.
“Even [pitching coach Don Cooper] said it yesterday, ‘Tomorrow is the day that Hector Santiago is back on the South Side,’ ’’ Santiago said. “It’s nice to be back here, and it was fun to be out there with those guys, for sure.’’
Bouncing back after a rough 2017 season — he had a back issue — with the Twins, Santiago touched 93 mph and used his ample assortment of pitches, except for the split-finger. He struck out John Andreoli and issued no walks.
“Screwball, some changeups to righties, sliders, curveballs, a lot of fastballs, yeah, everything,’’ Santiago said.
“It was nice to see a little bit of velocity back from the end of last year.”
If manager Rick Renteria has a specific role in mind for Santiago, who started in 130 of his career 189 appearances, he isn’t saying. The Sox right now are planning a rotation of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer.
“It’s way too premature for us to determine what that might be,’’ Renteria said.
Santiago, 30, said he’s approaching this spring as he has every spring the last seven years, even after his All-Star season with the Angels in 2015 — trying to win a spot.
“Those jitters were there coming back and pitching with ‘Sox’ on your chest again,’’ Santiago said. “And first live game, I feel strong. No pain, no nothing. Overall, I feel pretty good.’’
Prized Cuban outfield prospect Luis Robert entered in center field in the sixth inning, went back to the wall with no problem to make a catch facing the sun and was 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He hit the first pitch he saw on one hop to the right of shortstop and almost beat the throw to first.
The other Luis
Fleet right fielder Luis Basabe (Chris Sale trade) threw out Gordon Beckham, who was trying to stretch a single, at second, and batting left-handed, he doubled to left-center field to drive in the go-ahead run.
Prospect watch III
Right-hander Dane Dunning got two ground balls and a strikeout after hitting Mike Marjama with his first pitch, walking a man and bouncing a wild pitch the previous inning. After striking out on four pitches, big third baseman Jake Burger got a stand-up triple with a liner past diving right fielder Andrew Aplin and scored on Jose Rondon’s sacrifice fly.
Jeanmar Gomez (37 saves for the 2016 Phillies) struck out the side in the seventh, and Chris Volstad earned a save with two innings of one-hit ball.
Reds at White Sox, Glendale, Luis Castillo vs. Jordan Guerrero, 2:05 p.m. Sunday, 720-AM.