Hector Santiago has pitched in five games without allowing a run. AP
TORONTO - Hector Santiago smiled when he heard what Robin Ventura called him. Another year, another handle.
"Last year, I was a chameleon,'' Santiago said after his latest stellar contribution, a five-up, five-down relief pitching job against the Toronto Blue Jays in the White Sox' 4-3 win on Tuesday night.
"He's kind of like a Swiss Army Knife,'' Ventura said of the 25-year-old left-hander. "He's a little bit of everything. He has closed, he's been in between, a lefty guy, a long guy, a starter. There's a lot of different ways you can use him. But again, when he comes in the biggest thing is he's effective and gets the job done. How we use him from this point forward, he's probably forcing your hand to use him a little more.''
Santiago was the Opening Day closer in 2012 whose future probably exists in starting. For now, he's in between, a luxury for Ventura because of his ability to give a little more than one-inning appearances. He hasn't allowed a run, pitching as many as three innings in his first outing and more than one in four of five.
"He has good stuff and he throws strikes,'' Ventura said. "He gets a lot of swings and misses for a guy who throws a fastball.
"Even though he came into camp as a starter, his personality and the way he views himself, he can do a lot of different things. He comes in a game with a lot of energy, which is great.''
When John Danks was left behind in camp to build up arm strength as he climbs back from shoulder surgery, the void in the rotation was filled by Dylan Axelrod, a strike-thrower who has no decisions but has two good starts against Felix Hernandez and Josh Johnson. Santiago was the other option, a higher ceiling alternative because he has better stuff and a larger assortment of pitches. Just ask backup catcher Hector Gimenez, who put down the fingers Tuesday.
"He said I have too many pitches [to remember],'' Santiago said.
The Sox had too many pitchers, 13, after Gordon Beckham went on the disabled list and right-hander Deunte Heath was called up from AAA Charlotte to provide an extra arm in a bullpen that had been worked hard too early. Heath returned to Charlotte Wednesday, and outfielder Jordan Danks joined the team.
"We're back even getting and feeling like we have a bullpen where we feel guys are not overextended,'' Ventura said Tuesday night. "Just to even out your options with backup guys and making moves. It's one of those where we felt we needed to do it for that stretch. Now we're back to 12."
The Sox bullpen owns a 1.86 ERA, thanks in large part to the "Swiss Army Knife" who is happy to play the good soldier and do whatever Ventura asks.
"You feel safe with getting Hector in there in big spots,'' Ventura said. "Down by one, he can get you back in a game.''