Flushing, NY: This has been a journey for Hector Santiago in this big league career as a pitcher and it continued early Saturday evening at Citi Field. The 31-year old left-hander from Newark New Jersey, and with a heritage from Puerto Rico, spent most of his youth rooting for the New York Mets.
It has always been a goal to pitch in New York. After a career with White Sox, Angels and Twins, the Mets offered him a minor league contract and invite to spring training. A starter and out of the bullpen, the Mets saw their need for more depth and gave Santiago the opportunity.
The Mets needing some depth, out of the pen and in the rotation, last week notified Hector Santiago. He got the call to come home after pitching in eight games with Triple -A Syracuse. It took a week sitting in the bullpen before his Mets debut Friday night.
That went well,an inning of scoreless relief in a Mets 9-8 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Saturday, it was Santiago and getting down to business. Well after Jason Vargas gave the Mets 5.0 innings, and after two home runs from catcher Wilson Ramos, the bullpen was used. Sitting and waiting for the call was Santiago, after closer Edwin Diaz gave up the tying run in the eighth inning trying for a four-out save with two outs.
Manager Mickey Callaway had to go with Santiago. The bullpen was depleted. It took 44 pitches and a sinker that was ineffective at the beginning. His fastball, changeup, and that sinker got better to record the final outs. Santiago, used to getting a start said he could be available for the series finale Sunday afternoon after throwing 44 pitches.
“We were going the long haul,” Santiago said. And what got a laugh was his comment of continuing if this game had gone longer. “I was the last guy, hey lets throw 200 pitches. Always been lucky where my arm recovers pretty good I’m ready to go everyday.”
And his two scoreless innings of relief were scoreless. More so, it was extra inning relief in the 12th and 13th innings. Scoreless pitching and he earned his first win as a Met when Tomas Nido delivered a walk-off and game winning home run in a Mets 13-inning 5-4 win over the Tigers.
It was Wilson and Nido, a catchers day that provided offense for the Mets. Nido went to the mound when Santiago got into a bases loaded jam in the Tigers’ 11th. He told Santiago to keep his composure and a 93- mile sinker would get JaCoby Jones to swing. And another sinker to John Hicks went for a putout in center to end the inning and got out of a jam.
Santiago said, “Bases loaded, one out, calm down. Whole career has been effectively wild. Put myself in situations like that plenty of times. just know you can do it. kind of make your best pitches with a fastball, a strike one.”
He said to his catcher that going after Jones was the plan. “Let him make a mistake and go after something hard,” Santiago said,
He added, “Sometimes you got to move the ball, turn the ball around a little bit,” he said about getting the sinker to work. Better grip on it sometimes because of a high seam on one side.”
Said Callaway, “He was a little wide in the zone. When in doubt, he threw it at the plate.”
Perhaps it was his catcher that provided some confidence. Regardless, this may have been the right time for Hector Santiago to show what he has. The Mets need a spot starter and a reliever who can come out of the pen and provide a pitch or some quality innings.
“I definitely think I can fill that gap where there is a short start,” he said. “kind of keep the game more tight in the middle innings, give the big boys in the back of the bullpen chance to hold the game down and finish the game off.”
After the brief postgame briefing with media, Hector Santiago checked his phone. There were also some friends and family to meet that anticipated his first win as a Met.
He said, “I have to get back to the 140 or more text messages” One would be returned to his cousin Ray, a boxing promoter who was at ringside watching the fights down in Kissimmee, Flordia.
” Ray, him and boxing,” Santiago said with a laugh. But this was no laughing matter for the Mets. They got to see the real Hector Santiago and there is sure to be more innings to come out of their bullpen from a longtime Mets fan.
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