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Santana is not expecting any more minor setbacks

August 23, 2007|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

Ervin Santana left several questions unanswered, but he made this point clear: He doesn't intend to be sent down to triple A again.

"I'm not going back," Santana said. "I'm staying here."

Santana will take the mound tonight when the Angels open a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The start will be his second since he was recalled a week ago from Salt Lake, where he was sent for a month to clear his head and regain his command.

The 24-year-old was lights out in his first game back six days ago, when he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and gave up four hits in a victory at Boston. Santana was called up only because the Angels needed someone to pitch the back end of a doubleheader, but he wound up regaining his spot in the rotation.

"My pitches were functioning the way I wanted them to," Santana said. "I did what I could and I was happy with what I did."

The re-emergence of Santana, who was 16-8 last season, could be vital for a club that will be without Bartolo Colon at least until early September.

Santana, who said his previous struggles were mental, looked like a new man on the mound. The pitcher who was 0-5 with an 8.45 earned-run average in the six outings leading up to his demotion had been left behind in Utah.

"I saw that old Santana I used to know," said Angels catcher Ryan Budde, who caught him in Boston. "That was the old Santana -- pretty electric."

Budde played with Santana when they were at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga early in their careers and remembers him being a hard thrower with a swagger.

But Budde noticed a change in Santana's demeanor when their paths crossed again in Utah last month. Budde caught Santana in his second start for Salt Lake, in which he gave up six runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings. "Maybe a little lack of confidence," Budde said.

Santana also had some mechanical problems to work out in Salt Lake, where he was 2-1 with a 5.01 ERA in five starts.

"There were certainly some mechanical issues he was dealing with, some continuity in his delivery," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "One time everything was together, his arm was in the right slot and the ball came out easily. The next pitch, he was out of sync, the arm was low and he was fighting against himself."

That wasn't a problem last week, as Santana regularly pitched in the mid-90s.

"He went down there, got his confidence back, is turning the ball loose and has all his stuff," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "He had confidence in every pitch that he threw. He expanded the strike zone with his fastball and slider. He threw some good changeups. He was very aggressive and had a good demeanor about him."

But if there is one part of Santana that still hasn't been fixed, it's his growing discomfort with the media.

"They're all bad, they're all bad, they're all bad," he said. "I was happy in triple A. I was happy because nobody bothered me."

Santana said that when he has spoken to reporters, he has often seen them scribbling in their notebooks before he says anything.

"They write things I don't say," Santana said.

He wouldn't specify when or where he was misquoted.

"I think it's a trait that you need to acquire if you're going to be in the big leagues for a long time," Scioscia said. "There is a huge level of interest in major league players and how they perform. You have to be able to talk about it."

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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