SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With runners on first and second and two outs in the first inning of the White Sox 6-3 victory over the Rangers on Thursday, Hector Santiago needed a big pitch to retire Nelson Cruz and keep his team in control.
Santiago turned to his screwball and struck out Cruz looking, just as he had done two batters earlier with Josh Hamilton. It's a pitch not featured by many in the big leagues, which seems to have caught opposing hitters off guard.
"From seeing some of the swings and some of the faces on these guys after they saw it, it was something they haven't seen or was odd to them," said Santiago, who threw 10 or 12 screwballs among his 45 pitches over two scoreless innings. "Sometimes it gets out of your hand because you grab it so lightly on the side of your hand. Today, it felt really good and I felt comfortable."
That screwball to Cruz operated almost like a backdoor curve, fading back over the plate. White Sox manager Robin Ventura called it an odd pitch but effective and went on to praise Santiago's makeup as much as his selections on the mound.
"He doesn't back down," said Ventura of Santiago, who seems to be the long relief leader for the bullpen. "He's facing some good hitters and they have a great lineup and to see him go after them like that, and getting in a little bit of a bind and get out of it. ... It's great to see."