White Sox manager Robin Ventura refused to anoint one pitcher as the team’s closer all spring and told reporters at the start of the regular season that they’d have to “wait and see” who gets the nod in the ninth-inning when the first save opportunity arises.
Well, the secret is finally out.
Hector Santiago, a 24-year-old left-hander from Newark, New Jersey, was called on to finish off Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Rangers and did so effectively, tossing 11 pitches in a perfect ninth.
After the game Ventura was asked if Santiago is officially the team’s new primary saves man. According to Scot Gregor of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, the rookie manager responded: “He is.”
Santiago registered an underwhelming 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 74/39 K/BB ratio across 83 1/3 innings last season at Double-A Birmingham, but the White Sox like his screwball and clearly believe in his confidence. If he falls apart, look for Addison Reed to get the next shot. Matt Thornton is also an option.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.