Hector Santiago started the season as the White Sox's closer, so I imagine he didn't figure on heading down to Charlotte before the end of July.
Alas, today brought him bad news. Santiago was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Francisco Liriano, and it's a move that strikes me as a little strange, but only due to timing. His season has been one steady slide down the depth chart, and eventually it bottoms out.
Watching Santiago this season, he has often gone about his business without much of a feel for pitch selection. Maybe it's because because he thought a 95-mph fastball from the left side would be enough, or maybe just because his screwball was too new to trust against major-league hitters, but either way, his failure to close out games put his lack of polish into focus.
However, he had settled into the long relief role this past month, going three innings or longer in three different appearances in July. He had allowed just two runs over 12 innings (both runs didn't matter; it was the Pedro Hernandez game), stranded nine out of 10 inherited runners, and held opponents to a .108/.306/.162 line. It's an unusual line, but that's what it looks like when allowing twice as many walks (eight) as hits.
Effectively wild pitching is a hard way to make a living, and Santiago still has the potential for an effective late-inning arsenal, so it makes sense to send him back to school. And at this point, they might have the option of using him as a starter for Charlotte. There's still a chance he can be stretched out for five innings, and even if he can't quite get that far, he might start anyway, because damn near everybody else is hurt.
With Santiago's demotion, the Sox are down to three rookies and two lefties in the bullpen. Leyson Septimo wears both hats. He's a better choice for lefty-on-lefty work, and he's retired all 10 batters he's faced since his high-profile meltdown against Boston on July 16. The key for Septimo is avoiding a relapse, and throwing strikes will become even more important since Septimo is the closest thing Robin Ventura has to a long reliever.
The bullpen also will need to find somebody who can pull this off:
In related news: Tyler Saladino was promoted to Charlotte, so we'll soon get an idea just how much Birmingham's park was killing his production:
- Season: .255/.391/.354
- Home: .223/.352/.274
- Road: .287/.430/.437