Southpaw wanted gig, filled out résumé

Veteran Santiago returns to Majors with Mariners, provides length

May 28th, 2021

SEATTLE -- Héctor Santiago was so determined to remain in the big leagues that he took out the method that most of us do when seeking employment: He wrote out a résumé.

The left-hander doesn’t possess high-90s velocity, but he has shown a knack for getting outs over parts of nine seasons. The game has changed so much since the 33-year-old broke into The Show back in 2011, and he’s basically seen it all. So, Santiago leveraged that versatile experience and typed it out in tangible form:

• 139 starts in the big leagues
• 118 games as a reliever, including six saves
• 920 2/3 career innings, with a 4.14 ERA
• Experience with four organizations, at every level from Rookie ball to winter leagues

Santiago’s résumé went out to all 30 clubs via his agent ahead of 2020, which ultimately landed him a gig in Detroit. Santiago then pitched in the Puerto Rican Winter League and the Caribbean Series last offseason, but didn’t get an invite to Spring Training with any team. He took some time off in March, then received a call from Mariners management five days before Triple-A Tacoma’s regular-season opener on May 6, which he was asked to start. He received the news while fishing off the coast of Puerto Rico.

“I've done it all,” Santiago said. “The only role that I haven't had in the big leagues was a straight-up left-hander specialist. … So when I went into that, I was thinking, like, ‘What can be a different way to kind of get their attention and make an opportunity for myself?’”

On Thursday, Santiago became the latest pitcher to join the Mariners as they continue their attempts to cover innings with an injury-plagued rotation and a bullpen with three arms on the COVID IL. He was selected from Triple-A Tacoma after making three starts with the Rainiers, having reached five innings in his two most recent starts.

Santiago said Thursday that he’s built up to 75 pitches, and that length will come into play sooner than later for manager Scott Servais, who first worked with Santiago when they were both with the Angels in 2015.

“He loves baseball and he fills a need for us right now,” Servais said. “He’ll create some length for us out of our bullpen if we need some. He's had some success at the big league level, of course, and he does it a little bit differently; it's an array of different pitches. You'll see some really good velocity some nights, and other nights, he’ll get you out with different weapons. So we’re glad to have him.”

Left-hander Daniel Zamora was also recalled from Tacoma, and righties Wyatt Mills and Yohan Ramirez were optioned back to Tacoma following Wednesday’s bullpen game in Oakland.

Additionally, right-hander Sam Delaplane -- the club’s No. 24 prospect -- was designated for assignment in a somewhat surprising move. Delaplane was Servais’ under-the-radar, must-watch name going into Spring Training in 2020, but he struggled with command at the alternate training site after last year’s shutdown, then he underwent Tommy John surgery in April.

Marco to start Tuesday

Marco Gonzales will return from the 10-day IL on Tuesday and make his first start since April 27 when he takes the hill against Oakland at T-Mobile Park, Servais said Thursday.

Sidelined with a left forearm strain, Gonzales will be on a strict 3-4 innings leash in his first outing back. The Mariners are opting for him to build back his workload in a big league start, instead of on a rehab assignment for Tacoma, in part because he’s their best pitcher when healthy, and more chiefly, they need the innings. Gonzales threw a three-inning sim game at T-Mobile Park on Wednesday.

“I'd rather do that at the big league level than another rehab,” Servais said. “He felt good out of yesterday's game, threw all of his pitches -- so no issues there.”