Reading Room: Santos needs to settle down

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 12: Sergio Santos #46 of the Chicago White Sox gets congratulated by A.J. Pierzynski #12 after getting a save against the Oakland Athletics on June 12, 2011 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Athletics 5-4. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Sergio Santos is in the midst of his first rough stretch as a high-leverage reliever. He took the loss against Seattle on Wednesday, blew the save against Oakland on Friday, and put his team in a precarious position again on Sunday before a Brian O'Nora call bailed him out.

On The Score's "Hit and Run" program Sunday morning, Santos talked about what exactly happened, one day removed from the debacle:

"The past couple of days I've kinda been fighting against myself on that slider. Usually I just go on feel, and it just didn't feel that great, didn't have that release point for it, and I think it just kind of affected me a little bit, and I kind of sped things up instead of really slowing things down ... I kind of let the situation dictate what was happening."

Santos goes on to say that he had to resist attempting to power through his struggles and overthrowing instead of stepping off the mound, finding a happy place (my words, not his) and trusting his natural ability.

The good news is that he didn't look nearly as frazzled on Sunday. On Friday, there was one moment where it looked like A.J. Pierzynski didn't like the way Santos was looking in. He responded by standing up, flagging his arms and jogging to the mound for a powwow, like a corner man trying to drill instructions into his boxer's punch-drunk head. Santos appeared a little more composed, so ... there's that.

The problem is that Santos is only working with a fastball now. J.J. goes into greater detail about his pitch selection here and here, and I'm not certain that high-leverage work of any nature -- whether it's in the ninth inning or the seventh -- is where he'll rediscover it. He strikes me as somebody who is a little bit high-strung, and susceptible to getting caught up in the moment. That's not his fault, because this is only his third season as a pitcher, and he doesn't have a wealth of experience to draw upon.

But now that Matt Thornton is locating his fastball better, there might be an opportunity to work him into the ninth inning again, along with Jesse Crain. There is no elegant solution, but this ain't an elegant season, so it all fits.

Erik Johnson, the White Sox's second-round pick, pitched six quality innings in a victory over Dallas Baptist, ensuring a College World Series Appearance.

I watched Johnson pitch his last four innings, and there was a lot of stuff going on. He could ramp up his fastball to 94, and he hit 93 on his 95th and final pitch of the night, and he also used a two-seamerto run it away from lefties. His slider appeared to have two modes -- one with a downward break, and another one that acted like something cutterish. He snapped off maybe 10 looping curves, and also threw a few changeups, though he left them up in the zone.

Evidently his fastball was lagging in the first couple of innings, and command betrayed him here and there throughout the evening, as the scouting reports say, but there seems to be a good base of talent to work with.

James is back from vacation, and notes that John Danks has figured out the cutter that didn't do all that much in his rough outing against Toronto. Ramon Castro described it as "unbelievable" on Saturday.

In talking about his captain, Guillen either praised Paul Konerko by taking up his Hall of Fame case, or insulted everybody else:

"He will be in the Hall of Fame," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Sunday. "And by the way, PK did it clean, there's no doubt he did it the right way." [...]

"The Hall of Fame can be too picky, there's not that many good players out there anymore," Guillen said. "You're not going to see the 3,000 hits, the 500 home runs and 300 wins."

Juan Pierre describes his problems on the basepaths as "a mixture of things," but Reason No. 1 never comes up.

The second segment is a great read, as Jesse Crain holds court on Ed Hickox's squeezy strike zone to thoughts on closing.

Brent Lillibridge says he never imagined playing the outfield as much as he's playing it this year, much less making Web Gem after Web Gem, and he credits Harold Baines with helping his positioning.

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