New slider showing promise for Santiago

March 13th, 2016

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Name a pitch, and there's a good chance Hector Santiago throws it. Fastball, cutter, sinker, changeup, curveball, even a screwball. The slider, though, is a different story.

"It hasn't been there my entire career," Santiago said after Saturday's eventual 9-5 Angels win over the Giants. "I'll get a week where it was great, and then I'll lose it for the next month and a half."

The 28-year-old left-hander is focused on correcting that this spring. Santiago got roughed up Saturday, allowing seven baserunners and recording only eight outs. But he left pleased because he threw a lot of sliders and he threw them well.

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Santiago estimates that nearly 15 of his 66 pitches were sliders, a pitch he didn't trust enough to throw in his first four seasons in the Major Leagues and one he flashed only 7 percent of the time in 2015. At one point Saturday, Santiago threw six sliders in a span of 10 pitches.

"And six really good ones," he said. "I threw some really, really good sliders today. That was my offseason goal, to get some really good sliders for strikes. Sweeping sliders, back-foot sliders for right-handers. If I had to pick something out that went really well, my slider was probably the best thing of the day."

Santiago said he altered his grip with that pitch "big time" over the offseason, throwing it almost like a four-seam fastball but snapping his wrist right before letting it go. He threw it while playing catch from 90 and 120 feet to make sure he got good extension and tried it constantly.

He wants it mainly as a pitch to get lefties out.

"When you try to attack left-handers with a fastball only, it puts them in a place where they can [ignore] your slider and just sit heater," Santiago said. "Now it gives me something that I can throw a little bit harder with that downward depth away from them."