Road trip should provide good test for Sox starters

Road trip should provide good test for Sox starters
August 29, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Hector Santiago’s next two starts are scheduled to be at Fenway Park on Friday and Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

Though there has been some discussion about skipping a start or six-man rotations, Santiago is reluctant to give anything away at this point. Only 2 2/3 innings shy of his professional high of 132 2/3, Santiago knows the team could slow down or stop his workload at any point.

Even so, it appears he’ll get the chance to make his next two starts. After a dismal first four months, the White Sox have been quite pleased with their play in August. The team’s front office and coaches see the club’s upcoming 10-game road trip through Boston, New York and Baltimore as an opportunity to gauge how its young pitching staff can handle competing on the road against teams in a pennant race.

“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) said ‘The test is coming up, how you finish. You’ve got a bunch of good teams coming up, finish strong,’ ” Santiago said. “Pitching against them I feel like it’s more go out and do the same thing and earn my job for next year.”

Santiago has a pretty sturdy resume at this point.

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He has a 3.19 ERA and 207 strikeouts through the first 205 2/3 innings of his career.

Those marks are even better as a starting pitcher.

In 23 career starts, Santiago is 6-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 131 innings. While pitching deeper into games could be improved — he has averaged 5 2/3 innings a start — Santiago has learned to handle himself pretty well in his first full season as a starter.

The same can be said for Jose Quintana and staff ace Chris Sale, who now are both in their second full seasons as starters. General manager Rick Hahn is very pleased with the way his young rotation has continued to develop. The staff’s progress has enabled Hahn to avoid a complete rebuild and instead attempt to turn the franchise around more quickly.

Hahn also has been encouraged by the team’s recent run. The White Sox have won 10 of 12 and 16 of their last 23 games. They have won five straight series and six of their last seven.

But Hahn is curious to see how his young charges hold up under the pressure cooker on this next road trip.

“We have an interesting test coming up with a 10-game trip against good offensive clubs in ballparks against clubs that are competing for postseason berths to see how the pitching staff goes through that,” Hahn said. “There is still an opportunity to learn a fair amount and put us in a good position in the offseason knowing what we have on our hands.”

Manager Robin Ventura spent two seasons playing at Yankee Stadium. He’s aware of what lies ahead for his young arms. He knows the experience awaiting Andre Rienzo at Fenway Park on Sunday is unlike any the rookie has experienced and Ventura too is curious.

“There will be some good atmosphere,” Ventura said. “Even though we're not happy where we're at, you try to enjoy the atmosphere and seeing some young guys play in that kind of atmosphere.”

Santiago has first-hand knowledge after he pitched an inning at Yankee Stadium last June. He’s from nearby Newark, N.J. and considers pitching in the Bronx as a home game.

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He can’t forget the intensity and how it affected his velocity. Last season, Santiago’s fastball averaged 94 mph, per Brooksbaseball.net. But on June 28, pitching in front of friends and family, he averaged 95.8 mph and topped out at 96.8.

Santiago believes he’s in for a double dose of the same over the next six days.

“I’m not skipping any of my starts, the next couple of ones coming up,” Santiago said. “Pitching in Boston, I pitched there last year, but getting a start there is something else. Just all the history there. Going back to Yankee Stadium is another kind of intensity for me. It’s just a great feeling.”