White Sox

Hector Santiago would figure to be next up in White Sox rotation, but he's making sure Carson Fulmer stays there


Hector Santiago would figure to be next up in White Sox rotation, but he's making sure Carson Fulmer stays there

So far in spring training, the best pitcher on the White Sox is the guy who couldn’t get a job.

He also might be the best teammate, a selfless act in sportsmanship unfolding right now in Arizona that is a sight to behold.

A free agent during the worst offseason in the history of free agency, Hector Santiago waited for the phone to ring all winter long. In November, nobody called. In December and January, same thing. Finally in February, teams started showing some interest in the 2015 All Star, but nothing was guaranteed.

Coming off an injury-plagued season, Santiago wasn’t expecting to break the bank in his first chance at free agency, but he did hope better offers would come.  

They didn’t.

Finally, a day before spring training began, he signed a minor league contract with the White Sox, the first team that gave him an opportunity when they drafted him in the 30th round out of little known Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Niceville, Florida, in 2006.

When he arrived in Glendale, there seemingly wasn’t a spot in the rotation. Heck, there wasn’t even room for Santiago on the 40-man roster.

But now with Carson Fulmer struggling, a door has suddenly swung open. However, instead of walking right through it, Santiago is doing the exact opposite, essentially slamming the door on himself for the sake of the team.

Santiago has chosen to help the young Fulmer every chance he gets.

“I’ve talked with Fulmer a lot,” Santiago said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He’s putting a lot more pressure on himself because he feels like he’s competing for a spot. Right now, the job is his and it’s his to lose, so he has to go out there and compete and be positive.”

In his first two spring starts, Fulmer gave up eight runs on nine hits and five walks in two innings. Santiago came out of the bullpen to spell Fulmer in both games and allowed one run in eight innings with one walk and nine strikeouts.

If Fulmer doesn’t improve, the veteran Santiago is the clear candidate to replace him in the rotation.

But Santiago wants Fulmer to get back on track, revealing more about Santiago’s character than his actual pitching ability.

Take Fulmer’s last start. Santiago was watching him in the bullpen and noticed how much energy Fulmer was burning during warm-ups.

“You’ve got to be more conservative going into a game,” Santiago said he told Fulmer. “I was watching him in the bullpen, and I’m like, ‘Here goes three scoreless innings.’ He was executing every pitch, he was spinning it where he wanted it, he had life on the ball, his breaking pitches were great. And then he goes into the game and he gets two strikes, and you’re competing for a spot on the team, and for him it’s like, ‘I gotta get this guy, I gotta get this guy.’ And it’s like, 'No man, if you’ve got a guy 0-2, you’ve just got to execute a pitch. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to bounce it. You can throw a fastball.' He had so many different options where he could put a guy away.”

Instead, Fulmer allowed a leadoff home run to the Padres' Manuel Margot on an 0-2 count in the first inning, and it was pretty much downhill for Fulmer after that.

This could be the best thing to happen for Santiago, who waited all winter for a rotation spot that didn’t come. But here he is, basically blocking his own path by putting the team first ahead of any personal gain.

“I can’t go in there and tell Rick (Hahn), ‘Hey, Fulmer is not throwing the ball over right now, so the spot is mine,'” Santiago said. “I have no control over that. My point is, I can help (Fulmer) and I can go out there and succeed and do well and at the end of spring training you can only hope for the best.”

Santiago’s best friend on the team is Nate Jones. The two came up together as rookies with the White Sox in 2012. Jones is trying to come back from his third major surgery. He should have enough things to worry about. But these two grizzled veterans find themselves spending time away from ballpark thinking about ways to help out the young pitchers.

That’s just the kind of guys they are.

“We’re just sitting at home talking about pitchers and what we can say or do to make them understand that there’s no pressure,” Santiago explained. “We’re teammates, we’re all in this together, we’re obviously competing against each other, but I’m not pushing for anything negative. If I see something I can help someone out with and get better, that’s what we’re here for.”

In the end, Santiago is here to make the team. That seems like a lock right now either in the rotation or as a long man in the bullpen. Though if a closer doesn’t develop in spring training, don’t look past Santiago as a possibility. He came out of nowhere as a rookie in 2012 and became the White Sox ninth inning guy to start the season.

“I don’t know how that happened,” Santiago said looking back.

It could happen again. Who knows?

“For me, I’m trying to go out there and throw strikes and get through my innings and hopefully have a job in the big leagues, whether it’s here or somewhere else. Or a long guy, whatever the case may be,” Santiago said. “Honestly, I’ve never been in this situation before. I’ve always been in team control. As a non-roster invite I could wind up being in Triple-A, a long guy in the big leagues, a starter in the big leagues. I have no idea.”

Whatever role the White Sox give Santiago, he’ll embrace it.

And if Fulmer turns his spring around and makes the rotation, he can thank the pitcher who was in line to replace him.

Some of Santiago’s advice to Fulmer was to have fun — and not worry about outcomes.

Santiago’s advice for the rest of the American League:

“In the near future there’s going to be a lot of teams worrying about the White Sox.”

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?

Well, remember all the players on the Rays that you know? Bad news. They aren’t on the Rays anymore.

That’s not entirely true, I suppose, as Chris Archer is still on the Rays. But he’s got to be looking around the home clubhouse at the Trop these days and wondering, “Where’d everybody go?”

Perhaps trying to emulate the other fish-based Florida franchise, the Rays traded away a bunch of players this offseason, making this roster — one that somehow managed to finish third in the American League East last season — unrecognizable.

Evan Longoria, perhaps the best player in this young franchise’s history, was traded to the San Francisco Giants. Jake Odorizzi was traded to the Minnesota Twins. Corey Dickerson was DFA’d, then traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Steve Souza was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. And look at this lengthy list of guys who were lost to free agency: Alex Cobb, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Tommy Hunter and Steve Cishek.

Can someone go check and make sure the rays in that tank in center field didn’t get traded, too?

So who’s left from this offseason purge? Well, there’s Archer, who despite being an awesome face for the game has finished with an ERA north of 4.00 in each of the last two seasons. He’s still really good, at this point almost a lock for 200 innings and way more than 200 strikeouts. But who’s going to help him out?

The additions of 34-year-old Denard Span and 32-year-old Carlos Gomez were … odd. There are two former White Sox in the mix in Micah Johnson, who’s been on like 17 teams since November, and Daniel Hudson, who the Rays got back for Dickerson. Matt Duffy didn’t play at all last season. Kevin Kiermaier only played in 98 games last year but was quite good, having the best offensive season of his career. After an All-Star season for the Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos missed most of last season, his first with the Rays.

The best player on the team, or at least the one with the best 2017 campaign, is closer Alex Colome, the pitcher whose name begins “Alex Co” that the Rays still employ. He led baseball with 47 saves last year, and that’s on a team that won only 80 games. Mighty impressive. He’s got 84 saves in the last two seasons combined.

That doesn't mean there's not help on the way. Much like White Sox fans, Rays fans can salivate over a potentially promising future. The organization boasts three of the top 25 prospects in baseball: pitcher Brent Honeywell (No. 18), infielder Willy Adames (No. 22) and "first baseman/pitcher" — that sounds fun — Brendan McKay (No. 25). And they have two more guys in the top 100, including shortstop Christian Arroyo, the big piece coming back in that Longoria deal with the Giants. So the future is perhaps as bright as that sunburst in the Rays' logo.

In the end, though, it ain’t shaping up to be a good year in St. Pete, and the catwalk-filled baseball warehouse has only a little to do with that. The post Joe Maddon/Andrew Friedman Era hasn’t gone too well. Meanwhile, Maddon's won a World Series with the Cubs, and Friedman's been to one with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Any other wacky managers and baseball geniuses out there?

2017 record: 80-82, third place in AL East

Offseason additions: Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, C.J. Cron, Micah Johnson, Joey Wendle, Daniel Hudson

Offseason departures: Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson, Steve Souza, Alex Cobb, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek

X-factor: He's not the X-factor, but it's worth pointing out that the Rays do have a player named "Mallex," which sounds like the name of a bad guy in a superhero movie. While Archer looks real lonely on that starting staff, there's some interesting guys around him. Somewhat strangely, the Rays are going to employ a four-man rotation. The X-factor of the bunch is Jake Faria, who in his first big league season last year turned in a 3.43 ERA in 16 games, 14 of which were starts. He struck out 84 batters in 86.2 innings. Past Archer and Faria, you've got Blake Snell, who struck out 119 guys in 129.1 innings, and Nathan Eovaldi, the one-time New York Yankee who missed all of last season.

Projected lineup:

1. Denard Span, DH
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
4. Carlos Gomez, RF
5. Brad Miller, 2B
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. C.J. Cron, 1B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9. Mallex Smith, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Chris Archer
2. Blake Snell
3. Nathan Eovaldi
4. Jake Faria

Prediction: Fifth place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants

Check out the White Sox holiday caps — otherwise known as Avisail Garcia's home run robbing gear — for 2018


Check out the White Sox holiday caps — otherwise known as Avisail Garcia's home run robbing gear — for 2018

Baseball always has a way of trotting out special uniforms for holidays, and 2018 will be no exception.

Major League Baseball unveiled its special caps, jerseys and socks for this season's games being played on Jackie Robinson Day, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day and the Fourth of July, and they are very cool.

The White Sox tweeted out each of their special garments. Take a look:

That Fourth of July hat is especially cool, if you ask me.

Nice going with Avisail Garcia as the sample player for the Fourth of July jerseys, too. He made a pretty nice snag wearing some of these special duds a few years back.