"I kind of felt scared to stop throwing," said a smiling Santiago, who was at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday as 12 players from the White Sox Amateur City Elite program signed collegiate letters of intent. "I wanted to go play winter ball but [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper], with a month left in the season, said, 'No chance.'
"It's the first time I actually stopped moving my arm in 5 1/2 years. I talked to [Addison] Reed and Donnie Veal at [Matt] Lindstrom's wedding and they said, 'You're throwing already?' I'm like, 'Yeah, I don't know what to do.'"
Santiago, who turns 26 next month, finished his first season as primarily a starter with a 4-7 record, 3.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts over 130 2/3 innings and 23 starts. He also made 11 relief appearances. He took off about 3 1/2 weeks after the 2013 season closed out, but then returned to throwing.
The elevated innings total didn't cause Santiago any offseason pain or issues. The first couple of offseason workouts were a different story.
"There was a lot more soreness, a lot more aches, waking up in the morning like, 'Ah, I should take a day off here,'" Santiago said. "But you just have to get through it. That was the first two weeks, so now I wake up ready to go and wanting to work out."
Although he looks to be a firm part of the 2014 rotation, Santiago checks out the trade rumors that occasionally include his name, but he doesn't put too much credence in any of them. He is one of four left-handers currently in the rotation, a talented hurler that has worked in pretty much every aspect of pitching.
Those varied roles make him an attractive trade target. But general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday that if the White Sox four best starters are left-handers, then they will go with four lefties. It's a mix that Santiago has considered and has approved in his mind.
"I thought about that a bunch. I was like, 'Are they actually going to go with four left-handed pitchers?' And I think they can," Santiago said. "I think they can sit back and say there are four left-handed pitchers, but they are strong enough that they can get out right-handers, because for the most part, I think everybody gets out right-handers pretty well and we do a good job against lefties, as well.
"They can sit back and say, 'Maybe we can try this out and see where it goes.' If they need to make a change they can always do it. I guess there's too much that goes into it and we can't think about that. We can just prepare ourselves to be a starter."