The more I see and know of Hector Santiago, the more intriguing I find him.
He took the loss Tuesday, but pitched well (6+ innings, two earned runs). Paul Molitor pulled him after Jorge Polanco booted a grounder to start the seventh inning, but he'd only thrown 84 pitches. (The Twins may believe he still needs to stretch out after his WBC bullpen work for Puerto Rico, or they may figure that as long as they're carrying 13 pitchers they might as well use some of them.)
So he's two-for-two in quality starts.
What's unusual about him is the breadth of his repertoire. He told Bert Blyleven in a radio segment aired before Tuesday game that he's up to six pitches (four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change, slider, screwball, cutter) -- and working on a sidearm delivery that would add four more to the arsenal if and when he breaks it out in a game.
That approach used to be common among big league pitchers, but that was about 70 years ago. Today's pitching theory is more focused on a executing a tighter selection of pitches consistently.
A few Twins-related Q&A from a Keith Law (ESPN) chat from last week:
Brett : How many of Buxton, Sano, Kepler, Rosario and Polanco will become above average everyday regulars?
Keith Law: Yes, yes, yes, no, maybe.
Kevin: If you're the Twins, how do you pass on Hunter Greene? 102 at 17 y/o? Lord. They need pitching, but he gives you two potential players in one to bank on. Also, Falvey known for developing pitchers in CLE ? great match. Kid seems like he "gets it" too.
Keith Law: I think you take him, you send him out this summer as a shortstop, with the plan to pitch him in 2018. Maybe he does something either way as a hitter in the GCL to change your mind or reinforce it.
Jim: Travis Blankenhorn look like the future 3B of the Twins?
Keith Law: You know, I saw him last week in Fort Myers, and 1) oh my god is he huge and 2) he actually wasn’t that bad at third for a guy his size. Maybe he’s a 2b instead, but he can scorch the ball.
Thirteen pitchers on the Twins roster mean just three reserves for any given game, and Paul Molitor felt a bit constricted as he tried to work an extra run out of their ninth inning rally.
Molitor on late innings: "We were looking at different scenarios on how you best use our minimal bench."— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) April 11, 2017
13-man staff could end soon.
OK. To be sure, Molitor hasn't had to go to the 'pen nearly as often as they were expecting. Michael Tonkin made just his second appearance Tuesday. Craig Breslow has pitched once.
The question becomes: Who goes? Justin Haley is a Rule 5 guy; he either stays or is lost. Tonkin is out of options; he wasn't particularly high on my list of candidates, but he might be the best "stuff" pitcher in the 'pen. Breslow is long out of options. Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey are optionable, but Molitor is using them in game situations. Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly, Matt Belisle -- they aren't going anywhere.
My guess: If they make a move to add a hitter, it will be at Tonkin's expense.
My further guess: If they do cut back to 12 pitchers, that's when they'll get a string of short starts.