BOSTON— Hector Santiago returned from the disabled list Tuesday, starting against the Red Sox. Santiago had rain interrupt his outing after two innings and 49 pitches. He gave up a two-run home run to Christian Vazquez before the rain came.
It’s tough to gauge Santiago’s performance based on two innings. His pitch count was elevated and he issued two walks and a hit-by-pitch, in addition to the home run. If you’re looking for positives, the velocity looked good, with his fastball sitting 91-93. Prior to the game, Paul Molitor said he hoped Santiago had the velocity back, and it appeared he did.
I’ll be interested to see whether the Twins consider bringing Santiago back on three days rest to start one of the games of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Royals. Given that he only threw 49 pitches and there aren’t a lot of strong minor league options (unless they want to call up top prospect Stephen Gonsalves), I think that’s a decent possibility.
Buxton on Losing the Leg Kick
Byron Buxton abandoned his leg kick earlier this season, in place of a much smaller stride prior to contact. The hope is that the lack of a leg kick will lead to him putting the ball in play more consistently. Strikeouts have been an issue for him all season, but they were particularly bad at the beginning of the season when he was still using the leg kick.
“[The goal is] putting the ball in play more,” Buxton said. “Putting it on the ground more to get it out of the air. With the leg kick I was more fly ball oriented. It didn’t give me a chance to get on base. Now putting it on the ground I at least have the chance of beating it out or them rushing the throw and making an error.”
Buxton said he had a leg kick in high school, and alternated between a step and a leg kick through most of the minor leagues. He’s worked with hitting coach James Rowson on the new swing mechanics.
“James just told me to try something different. I was definitely all in on it, especially if it was going to give me a better chance of getting on base. We went in the cage numerous times to try to figure out what could work and we came up with this. He’s been telling me ‘You’re in a good spot, keep believing in yourself, keep things in perspective.’”
Buxton acknowledged that it’s difficult to change a swing in the middle of the season, but says he’s getting more and more comfortable with the new swing mechanics as he continues to get consistent at bats.
In addition to the change in swing mechanics, he said he’s trying to incorporate more bunting into his game in an effort to increase his on-base percentage.
“I am [bunting more]. We go out for early work and try to work on bunting for a hit. That’s one of my weapons that I need to get better at and start using a little bit more often. Just try to pick out good points in the game to lay down a bunt and get on.”
Hildenberger on his Big League Experience
Trevor Hildenberger is five days into his time as a major leaguer, and he’s enjoying every minute of it. He pitched a scoreless inning in his debut Friday in Cleveland.
“Exceeded all my expectations. Everything I wanted and more,” he said of being in the big leagues. “First day was exciting because I got to pitch. My whole family was there. We won. Unbelievable to go and sweep them [Cleveland] and leave in first place. It was really exciting.”
Although he said he was nervous Friday, particularly warming up, he was able to get through the inning allowing only one baserunner. That outing helped him gain confidence in his ability to pitch at this level.
“Once I started competing my nerves went away. I have the confidence to throw any of my stuff in any count. It’s definitely good enough to play here; as long as I throw strikes I can get guys out.”
Hildenberger has excelled in the minor leagues in part because of a sidearm delivery that helps create deception, although he does occasionally come over the top as well. He said he did that once in his outing Friday, and typically will do it two to five times per outing, depending on the length.
You can read more about Hildenberger here.