Purgatory Online

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Almost exactly two years after I first posted about Ervin Santana, said youngster made his Angels Stadium debut. Up against the 8-0 Jon Garland, and with memories of a brutal shellacking at the hands of the Indians fresh in his mind, The Grinnin' Dominican coolly threw a five-hit, 115-pitch shutout against the team with the best record in baseball. Only two White Sox reached second base; most appeared utterly baffled by the up to 18 mph difference between Santana's fastball and off-speed pitches.

Was Santana perfect? No, not close. He made a couple of mistake pitches that the Sox didn't take advantage of, and I think a great deal of credit for pitch selection goes to Bengie Molina. But the resiliency, the ability to come back from a brutal first Major League appearance and make adjustments - that's all Santana's. Against Cleveland, he appeared to be almost desperate to work quickly, throwing pitch after pitch almost as soon as he got the ball in his glove. Working quickly is a good thing, of course, but above all concentration is what makes pitches. If you're focused on what you're doing on the mound, a good rhythm will follow. Last night, you could see Santana taking an extra beat or two between pitches, keeping himself in check mentally.

The article I linked to two years ago includes this bit of foreshadowing when discussing Santana and Jeff Mathis:
"Obviously, they both have great ability, but the thing that impresses me most about them," said Bobby Meacham, the ex-Yankee and former Mater Dei High shortstop who is their manager here at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, "is that they take criticism really well. They identify what they need to work on, and they try to get better."
In that sense, the Angels may have witnessed the first glimmer of the career of Ramon Ortiz's good twin; a whiplike power pitcher who can keep his emotions under control and learn from his mistakes. God, wouldn't that be something?

I also think Scioscia deserves some credit for letting Santana close the game out. Ordinarily, 115 pitches for a 22-year-old is probably right at my threshhold. But this decision was almost certainly the right one. Eight innings of shutout ball would have nicely canceled out Santana's first start, but a complete game shutout obliterates it. Even if Santana returns to the minors - as I think he must - he can have no question in his mind now that he has the talent and the mental ability to play with the big club.