If you’ve ever listened to a broadcast when a struggling power pitcher is on the mound, you’ve inevitably heard the sermon on why good stuff isn’t enough to succeed in the big leagues, but that you have to know how to pitch, which only comes through years of experience and learning.
Sergio Santos would beg to differ. The former shortstop, drafted in the first round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2002, gave up on hitting last year after an eight year minor league career. The White Sox turned him into a relief pitcher, hoping that his strong arm would translate into success on the mound, but it was a rough transition to say the least. He threw 28 2/3 innings, gave up 37 hits, walked 20, struck out 30, and posted an 8.16 ERA. The velocity was there, but the results were not.
It was just the first year of the experiment, however. He came to camp showing significantly better command and, mostly because he was out of options, made the White Sox bullpen. His performance to date has been nothing short of shocking.
His season line, including today’s performance: 14 1/3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 7 BB, 18 K.
This is a guy who entered the year with less than 30 professional innings under his belt. He was nothing short of terrible in his first exposure to pitching, and yet, here he is in the big leagues, blowing hitters away.
He’s mixing three pitches – a mid 90s fastball, a hard biting slider, and a surprisingly good change-up. He’s been good against both left-handed and right-handed hitters. He’s throwing strikes, getting ahead in counts, and forcing hitters to chase nasty breaking balls in the dirt.
Yes, it’s 14 innings, but so far, Sergio Santos is out-pitching almost every big name reliever in baseball. It’s a testament to how much improvement he made in spring training, the skills of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, and, truthfully, how very easy it is to be a relief pitcher if you have a good arm. And Sergio Santos has a very, very good arm.
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