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Santiago rebounds in last start before WBC '17

Special to MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- That was more like what Hector Santiago was hoping for in his first Spring Training with the Twins. The lefty worked 2 2/3 innings on Sunday against the Nationals, striking out five while yielding just two hits. He walked one. The Twins rallied late for a 4-2 victory.

It was a remarkable rebound from his Grapefruit League opener, a forgettable one-inning outing against Tampa Bay in which he was rocked for five runs on five hits, including a pair of home runs in a 19-0 loss.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- That was more like what Hector Santiago was hoping for in his first Spring Training with the Twins. The lefty worked 2 2/3 innings on Sunday against the Nationals, striking out five while yielding just two hits. He walked one. The Twins rallied late for a 4-2 victory.

It was a remarkable rebound from his Grapefruit League opener, a forgettable one-inning outing against Tampa Bay in which he was rocked for five runs on five hits, including a pair of home runs in a 19-0 loss.

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"Yeah, today felt good, fastball command was there and I threw some good offspeed," Santiago said. "So I mixed it up pretty good today."

Santiago struck out two of the first three batters he faced, fanning both Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy looking, after coaxing a groundout to start the inning. Santiago threw just 11 pitches in the opening frame, nine of those for strikes.

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He threw almost entirely fastballs the first two innings, clocking in consistently at around the 90 mph mark.

"I think I threw a couple of screwballs in the second inning and then that third inning I threw three screwballs to Werth and then two fastballs.

"I haven't thrown that many two-seams -- it still feels a little uncomfortable in my hand -- but I'm trying to work that in there so I can get that outside part of the plate to righties and inside to lefties."

Santiago had his struggles in the second inning, throwing 27 pitches, but was able to keep the Nationals off the scoreboard. He got Bryce Harper on a sharp roller to first to open the second inning, but Anthony Rendon slapped a sharp grounder to the other side of the diamond and down the left-field line for a double.

Adam Eaton hit the next pitch for a line single to right, and Santiago loaded the bases with a walk. But he fought back, striking out the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the Washington lineup to work out of the jam.

Scheduled to throw around 45 pitches, Santiago recorded an out with his first pitch of the third inning before striking out Werth a second time.

And that's when his final outing, prior to heading for the World Baseball Classic to play for his native Puerto Rico, came to an end. Santiago threw a total of 44 pitches, 30 for strikes.

"That was a good tuneup game where everything was working," he said. "For the most part I think I was ahead of the hitters. I'm pumped [to play in the WBC '17]. Definitely looking forward to it."

Acquired in a trade with the Angels on Aug. 1, 2016, the Twins are the third Major League team Santiago has played for in his six years in the big leagues. The White Sox took the 29-year-old in the 30th round of the 2006 Draft. He played three Major League seasons in Chicago before being dealt to the Angels in '13.

Santiago had an All-Star season with the Angels in 2015, when he went 9-9 with a 3.59 ERA over 32 starts. He struck out a career-high 162 batters over 180 innings, which were surpassed only by last year's 182 innings split between the Angels and the Twins.

In 11 starts with Minnesota last year, Santiago went 3-6 with a 5.58 ERA.

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.

Puerto Rico, Minnesota Twins, Hector Santiago