Santiago now 8-for-8 as a 2014 reliever …

Hector SantiagoHector Santiago made his first appearance in eight days on Monday night, in mop-up duty with a five-run deficit, and retired each of the six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth inning, getting three groundouts, two flyouts and a strikeout.

Santiago is now 8-for-8 as a reliever, having also retired the two batters he faced in Toronto on May 11.

“The last few days, I’ve just been working, trying to get back to who I was in spring and where I was last year,” Santiago said after a 5-2 loss to the Astros. “I kind of saw a little bit of that tonight — a few pitches where the ball was actually traveling through the zone instead of cutting short.”

Santiago was removed from the rotation — temporarily, it appeared — after going 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA through his first seven starts, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia was noncommittal about his status pregame. Postgame, Scioscia said Santiago “made some strides with his fastball location,” but also mentioned that the 26-year-old left-hander “is still working into some velocity.” Here’s Santiago’s start-to-start, four-seam-fastball velocity, per pitchF/X …

April 2: 90.86 mph
April 8: 93.41 mph
April 14: 92.98 mph
April 20: 92.04 mph
April 26: 93.32 mph
May 2: 93.33 mph
May 7: 91.5 mph

Not much of a dip for a guy who averaged 91.8 mph last year, and 92.8 mph the year before that, but there was a bit of a dropoff in his last start against the Yankees. (Santiago averaged 92.17 mph on Monday). Santiago threw a power bullpen on Friday and a 25-pitch ‘pen prior to Monday’s game. He’s working on “finishing pitches” and “just driving the ball through the zone.”

“Early in the year,” he said, “I felt like I was pulling pitches and not really finishing them.”

And that could surely lead to a pitching not maximizing his velocity.

“I think it’s in there when he needs it,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully when his mechanics come together, and he’s throwing the ball to spots easier, you’ll see that velocity match what we know it can be.”

Alden

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