Santiago amped up to start in New York -- if he gets the chance

Santiago amped up to start in New York -- if he gets the chance
May 4, 2013, 6:15 pm
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KANSAS CITY -- Hector Santiago's looking forward to pitching in front of a large group of friends and family on Wednesday in New York, but it's not a guarantee he'll get that chance.

The Bloomfield, N.J., native is scheduled to start against the Mets that night, but he may not get that chance. Jake Peavy, who was tentatively slated to start Monday, now is unlikely to do so. That means either Santiago will start on short rest or Chris Sale, scheduled to start Tuesday against New York, will pitch on normal rest.

"He's really hoping that Jake's better, I can tell you that," manager Robin Ventura said before Saturday's game. "He's got a lot of (friends and family) coming into the game so he's probably pulling for Jake more than anyone so he can throw in New York."

A lot of friends and family may be an understatement. When word came down Santiago was scheduled to start Wednesday about 45 minutes from his hometown, the pitcher's father put the word out to friends and family from the area to show up in Queens that evening.

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"It's just a manhunt for tickets now," Santiago said. "I know he called Citi Field and asked them for a 100-ticket package. He's trying to get everybody to get their cash together so he can go purchase them. And before that, I had probably already 50 or 60 people who had tickets."

So that's about 150 or so fans hoping to see Santiago start on Wednesday. They're planning to sit on the third base side of the stadium, above the visiting dugout. His parents already have first-row tickets, and he's expecting a raucous group of fans cheering for him even though he's the opposing starter.

Of course, that's if Santiago gets the chance. His ability to quickly bounce back from high pitch counts may actually work against him, as the White Sox are willing to start him on short rest Monday if they decide to give Sale an extra day off. 

Teammates marvel at Santiago's arm, which has seemed nearly immune to fatigue, soreness and all the other pitfalls that come with throwing 90-100 pitches in a game. Santiago threw a side session Saturday and, two days after throwing 92 pitches in Texas, said his arm felt like he had three or four days rest on it. 

While the White Sox were heading to the park on Friday, catcher Tyler Flowers looked up the probable starters for that night's game. They hadn't been updated yet, and still had Santiago -- who started the night before -- pitching for the White Sox.

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"And I think I told it to (Matt) Thornton, and Thornton's like 'yeah, Santiago's gonna go back-to-back starts.' And I go, 'I tell you what, he's probably the one guy who could actually do that and be fine,' " Flowers recalled. "He's that kind of guy. He'll go out there, he could probably make 200 pitches today and another 100 tomorrow and be fine."

Santiago has filled just about every role possible for a pitcher since he joined the White Sox. He pitched as a long reliever twice in 2011, then began 2012 as a closer before shifting to middle relief, long relief and eventually starting. In every role he's had, he's been a high-energy guy, someone who rarely dials things back -- even when he starts.

"He's a valuable, valuable guy," pitching coach Don Cooper said. And his day to start is here now."

Flowers thinks Santiago's experience closing, though, will help him channel the adrenaline he'll feel if he starts Wednesday in front of so many friends and family. Occasionally, being too pumped up means trying to throw too hard, flying open and missing his spots, but Flowers believes he has a good enough handle on Santiago's rhythms to keep him focused. 

And Wednesday won't be the first time Santiago will feel that rush of pitching in front of friends and family, either. Last June, he threw an inning of relief at Yankee Stadium -- and was so jacked up his cutter averaged 91 miles per hour, a full four ticks above his usual velocity for that pitch. In that game, he took advantage of the adrenaline, and hopes to do so again if he gets the nod Wednesday. 

"You kinda want to keep doing the same thing you've been doing to have success, but it's like, you can't control it," Santiago said. "It's at the point where you're here and you want to celebrate and give your family something to cheer for, and you want to do good in front of them. It's kind of hard to control."

It's tough to manufacture adrenaline, especially in a 162-game season. So Santiago is happy for any added boost he can get, especially since if all goes well for him, he'll be starting from here on out.

"It's going to be definitely loud coming off that mound going into (the dugout), especially because I have some very loud cousins," Santiago said. "It's gonna be good."