The decision to put Donovan Solano on the IL on Thursday was expected, but the corresponding move turned out to be fascinating.
The Giants recalled right-handed reliever Gregory Santos from their alternate site, adding a second extremely hard-throwing option to their bullpen less than a week after calling up Camilo Doval. Santos, just 21 years old, has been consistently hitting 100 mph at the alternate site and has been clocked as high as 101.
"I'm very happy to be taking another step forward in my career," Santos said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "I was aware I was doing really good (at the alternate site) but never did I think I was going to be called up so soon."
The move fills a need for a bullpen that had just three right-handers in Philadelphia. Solano "wasn't great getting off the plane (Thursday)," per manager Gabe Kapler, but the Giants didn't give an initial timetable for his return. For now they can cover for him at second base, with Tommy La Stella, Wilmer Flores and Mauricio Dubon all on the active roster. Kapler said the Giants wanted another right-handed arm against a righty-heavy Marlins lineup, and also felt they were short in the bullpen on the last road trip.
"As far as performance goes, Santos has shown at least average command of his slider, which is a really important factor in coming to the big leagues," Kapler said. "Obviously the velocity is encouraging but all the velocity in the world doesn't help if you're not able to attack the strike zone. The fact that he's throwing his slider for strikes gives us confidence here."
The Giants picked up Santos, along with Shaun Anderson, in the Eduardo Nuñez trade in 2017, but injuries limited him to 12 starts in 2018 and eight the next year. He pitched in relief in the instructional league last fall and opened eyes, earning a spot on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. Santos wasn't used much in Cactus League play, but has been dominating at the alternate site in scrimmages with A's prospects. Like Doval, Santos complements the big fastball with a hard slider.
Santos said the call to the big leagues came at 10:45 on Thursday morning, and he immediately called his wife and parents. When he got to Oracle Park he was reunited with Doval, a close friend and fellow native of the Dominican Republic. Those two, along with right-hander Kervin Castro, have been viewed as the future of the bullpen in recent months.
"When you're a reliever and you have that kind of arm you can move really quickly," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said in December.
The future has come much quicker than expected.
"The potential for both of these guys and Kervin Castro, as well, is for all to stick in a Major League bullpen," Kapler said. "I think that's part of the reason they're on our 40-man roster and it's exciting that Santos is going to have his opportunity to make his Major League debut and Doval has already had three appearances. It's nice to get their feet wet and see how they can contribute."