White Sox

Hector Santiago returns familiar face to White Sox and fills hole on 2018 pitching staff

Hector Santiago returns familiar face to White Sox and fills hole on 2018 pitching staff

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Hector Santiago was traded away from the White Sox, made an All-Star team, shut down his former team (a few times) and hurt his back.

Now Santiago is back with the South Siders, signed Wednesday to a minor league deal that comes with an invite to spring training. As White Sox pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch, a familiar face was on the way.

Santiago's addition is no small thing. While there's no guarantee he'll be a part of the White Sox roster on Opening Day, the team's needs seem to indicate he's got a good chance to be among the 25 who break camp and head to Kansas City for the season opener.

While nearly every role in the White Sox bullpen is up for grabs, there seemed to be few if any who fit the bill of a long reliever. Santiago, though he's had his best days as a starter, would figure to slide into that long-relief spot. But his versatility is what made him a desirable addition for the White Sox during this epically slow offseason. Should any injuries befall the expected starting rotation of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer — with a recovering Carlos Rodon waiting in the wings — Santiago would figure to be among the best options to fill in.

"The versatility has a great deal of appeal," general manager Rick Hahn said during a Wednesday press conference. "Obviously, he's had success including an All-Star season as a starter in the American League. We saw first-hand how valuable he can potentially be in various roles, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen. The versatility certainly had an appeal to us and as a player we drafted and helped develop, I think we have a special fondness for Hector. He's a tremendous, tremendous individual and a great fit in the clubhouse."

Santiago was drafted by the White Sox in 2006 and spent his first three big league seasons on the South Side before getting dealt away in the Adam Eaton trade. During his first stint with the White Sox, he made 78 appearances, only 27 of which were starts. He made the 2015 AL All-Star squad with the Los Angeles Angels, posting a 3.59 ERA that season with 162 strikeouts in 180.2 innings.

Santiago made 33 starts with the Angels and Minnesota Twins in 2016 but only pitched 15 times last season while dealing with a back injury. Hahn said Wednesday that Santiago is recovered from that injury and will be full go once he reports, which could be as early as Thursday.

Santiago and Gonzalez make two former White Sox back in the fold for the 2018 campaign. The South Siders added Gonzalez earlier this offseason after trading him away last summer. The White Sox knew what they were getting in these guys, and the duo has familiarity with pitching coach Don Cooper.

"It does play some role," Hahn said. "Hector's got probably more experience out of the pen and more versatility. Gonzo having been in this clubhouse, he fit well and it's obviously comfortable for him with the role going forward."

But maybe the best thing about the White Sox bringing Santiago back is that they don't have to face him anymore. In seven starts against his former team, Santiago is 5-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 45.1 innings.

So a positive move on all fronts.

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

The White Sox have a number of highly-rated prospects performing well in the minors and some of them will be on the move within the system in a matter of days.

General manager Rick Hahn talked to reporters ahead of Monday night's White Sox game in Cleveland, a 6-2 loss, and gave the news. Well, sort of.

He didn't include names, but he did say that "there will be many" promotions after the minor league all-star games for Double-A and both Single-A teams take place on Tuesday.

Hahn added that Chris Getz, the White Sox player development director, will address the media before the White Sox host Oakland on Thursday about the moves.

If the all-star games are a reason to wait, it's safe to think some of the players involved will be playing in those games. So who could be on the move?

Double-A Birmingham has six all-stars: Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Danny Mendick, Dane Dunning and Ian Hamilton. Jimenez is the name everyone wants to see on the move. He has torched the Southern League since getting off to a late start to the season due to injury. Hahn was asked about Jimenez, but didn't tip his hand as to whether he would be one of the promotions.

Dunning has been good in Double-A (2.78 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings), but was already promoted this season so he may not be on the move again.

Single-A Winston-Salem has five all-stars: Dylan Cease, Luis Alexander Basabe, Joel Booker, Bernardo Flores and Matt Foster. Cease, 22, could be due for a promotion with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. There's also that outfield logjam the Dash, which won the first-half division title, have had all season.

Other than Basabe and Booker, Blake Rutherford and Alex Call are also noteworthy prospects being forced to split time in the Dash's outfield. If Jimenez is moving up to Triple-A, one or two names from this group could be on the move to take his spot in Birmingham.

This would especially make sense if highly-touted outfield prospect Luis Robert, who was supposed to be in Single-A Kannapolis for a short period before joining the Dash, is ready to move up as planned. Robert is hitting .289/.360/.400 in 13 games with the Intimidators.

Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis were all off Monday. The various all-star games will take place Tuesday and the three teams will be off again Wednesday. The promotions could be announced Thursday ahead of Getz's scheduled media availability.

Zack Burdi is pitching off a mound again

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USA TODAY

Zack Burdi is pitching off a mound again

Zack Burdi was thought of as a college pitcher who could make the major leagues quickly after he was drafted in 2016.

The White Sox drafted him 26th overall that year and it appeared his quick rise through the minors was going to come true. Burdi reached Triple-A Charlotte by the end of 2016 and had a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 16 innings with the Knights.

However, he had Tommy John surgery in July and hasn't pitched in more than 11 months. The 23-year-old from Downers Grove is nearing his return and had video proof.

That's Burdi throwing off a mound, which means a rehab stint might not be far behind. Burdi may not getting into the full swing of things before the minor league season ends in early September, but this is a good sign for him being ready to go for spring training in 2019.

Before going on the disabled list, Burdi had a 4.05 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks in 33 1/3 innings with the Knights in 2017.