White Sox

From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side


From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side

Hector Santiago couldn’t get a full-time spot in the White Sox starting rotation.

But after getting traded to the Angels and making his first All-Star team as a starting pitcher last month, he has nothing but thanks for the team that traded him away.

“Those guys, they gave me the opportunity to actually start,” Santiago said ahead of Monday’s series opener on the South Side. “I was in the closer role my first year, and they gave me the opportunity to become a starter. And they made it possible for me to come over here to the Angels and get a full-time job because they gave me 150 innings one year when I had 20-plus starts in a season. I never had a full-time (starting role), I didn't come out of spring with these guys as a starter, but they got my feet wet and they put me in the door so I could become a starter later on in my career. So thank those guys for that. They started me off getting into the rotation.”

The White Sox shipped Santiago to Los Angeles in a three-team deal that brought Adam Eaton to the South Side in December of 2013. He always wanted to be starter, though he started just 27 of the 78 games he pitched in during his three years with the White Sox. He’s made 21 starts so far this season for the Angels, an All-Star season in which he’s posted a 2.78 ERA in 129 1/3 innings.

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The lefty admitted that he’s excited to be back in Chicago and excited to pitch against his former team for the first time on Tuesday night, even if the White Sox heavy roster turnover the past few seasons means he won’t be facing many of his former teammates.

As for the former teammate his current teammates faced Monday night, Chris Sale, there wasn’t much help he could provide.

"I was just talking about that,” Santiago said. “'I can try to tell you kind of a gameplan or what he has, but obviously you guys know what he has.' It doesn't matter if I can tell them he's possibly this kind of pitcher, he's still hard to hit. His stuff is so good, and he mixes so well. He's a great pitcher, and he can be different on any other day. Some days his fastball might be 90, some days it's 98. I think all around he's such a good pitcher, he's hard to even give a scouting report on.”

Sale was a big part of Santiago’s All-Star experience in Cincinnati. The two former teammates spent the Midsummer Classic together, hanging out and reminiscing during the game.

“It was fun, I actually got to share it with Sale,” Santiago explained. “I was his first roommate in the minor leagues. So that was cool getting to know all the rest of the guys, but going there and having Sale there, kind of knowing somebody at the game on a day-to-day basis — I actually know Sale pretty well — that made it a little bit easier. We hung out the entire game from the first inning on. It was pretty good.

“We kind of went through all of it, what we did in the minor leagues and together in the big leagues. We sat the first two innings in the dugout, and then the last seven we were in the bullpen. … We just pretty much sat there. There was a lead or something, we weren’t going to get in the game. So we just hung out, just enjoyed it, took it in.”

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Santiago was part of baseball's youth movement that dominated this year’s All-Star Game, one of the 35 players age 27 or younger and one of the 28 making their first All-Star appearance.

It wasn’t too long ago that Santiago was just getting acclimated to the major leagues, not too long ago when he thought the All-Star Game was some far-off, unattainable thing. But life can move fast, and he went from minor leaguer to All Star to the thick of a playoff race in what seems to him like the blink of an eye.

The Angels are rolling, in part thanks to Santiago. Is a World Series the next previously believed to be unattainable goal that Santiago will be living out?

“I was in the minor leagues for five years and you get called up because of an injury, and when a guy comes back you get sent back down. Then you kind of don’t know where you’re going to be at. Then you make the team with them, and you’re barely surviving as a long guy, maybe a starter, fill-in, and you kind of just go out there and do your job every day. You look forward to (the All-Star Game), you see your teammates go and kind of hope for the best and wish you were going,” Santiago said. “For me, the big leagues were really far away. Then the All-Star Game was way out of my reach. Winning a World Series is kind of like the top one, it’s way up there. Everything has it’s way.”

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked


White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Omar Vizquel is named the Carolina League Manager of the Year, Sept. 13.

Vizquel became the third Winston-Salem Dash manager to be named Manager of the Year. The Dash went 84-54, the second-highest win total in franchise history and won the division title in both the first and second half.

Vizquel's season: As soon as Vizquel retired after the 2012 season, he went straight into coaching. First, he was an infield coach for the Angels in 2013. Then, he became the first base coach for the Tigers.

Vizquel remained there until taking the Dash job in the White Sox organization this season. Winston-Salem was an important post because seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 30 prospects from MLB Pipeline's rankings spent some time there in 2018.

Vizquel was able to guide that talent to a whole bunch of winning. The Dash had the best record in the Carolina League in the regular season.

The playoffs did not go so well. The Dash got swept by the eventual league champion Buies Creek Astros in the first round.

Still, it was a successful managerial debut for Vizquel and the White Sox got to take advantage of his experience with a number of top prospects playing under him.

He may not manage the White Sox any time soon, but Vizquel's ties to the organization (two years playing with the team and now coaching in the organization) make him a possible candidate at some point in his managerial career.