On the surface, the promotion of Gregory Santos appeared to be a repeat of the Camilo Doval move. They're both young, hard-throwing right-handers from the Dominican Republic who rely heavily on good sliders, but as manager Gabe Kapler watched Santos go through his debut Thursday night, he definitely noticed a difference.
"I think Doval is a very calm, poised individual out on the mound -- I don't think any situation in the game gets his heart beating too fast at all, so I think he just stays very composed out there," Kapler said. "With Santos, there's a little bit more emotion, and he shows you a little bit more emotion."
That didn't fully come out Thursday, but with the way he pitched, there will be plenty of opportunities for big fist pumps. Santos, like Doval before him, fully looks like he belongs at the big league level despite having never pitched above A-ball before this season. He struck out two in the sixth inning, helping to protect a 3-0 lead.
The outing gave Doval and Santos another similarity. Both were thrown right into the fire as big leaguers, asked to protect slim leads against the Miami Marlins. Both succeeded. Kapler credited the minor league staff, in particular farm director Kyle Haines, for helping to get the young pitchers ready for big spots.
"We trust his evaluation of the players that come to the major league level and we've seen a lot of these guys at various points," Kapler said. "Obviously not on the biggest major league stage in a game like today, but we've seen the work that they've done so we have a lot of familiarity with them and how they might respond to these environments.
"The fact that we believe that is no guarantee that the first time out, things aren't going to get overwhelming to them and that it could go in a different direction. At the same time, we trust the organization to develop players like Doval and Santos and when they get to our level, we trust that they're ready to perform."
The two have thrown four combined innings over the last week, allowing one run while striking out six. Perhaps most importantly, Doval has just one walk in his three innings and Santos pumped strikes Thursday. If you sit at 98 mph and can command a slider, you're going to have a lot of success as a big league reliever, and Kapler said the breaking ball is actually Santos' best pitch despite the fact that the fastball hits triple digits. He threw the slider 10 times on Thursday and got eight strikes, including two strikeouts.
"This is one of the areas that I think is really similar with Doval and Santos," Kapler said. "Both of them came in in their first major league appearance with a lot on the line, a lot at stake, and they were able to deliver strikes."