SEATTLE — Ervin Santana is so even-keeled you wouldn't know if he was throwing a no-hitter or getting shelled, a temperament that helps him cope with the stress of being a big league pitcher but irritates those who want him to show more fire on the mound.
So it's hardly surprising that Santana, in his 12th year with the only organization he has known, attached no special significance to what very well could be his last game as an Angel, Sunday night's 2 2/3-inning, six-run, seven-hit effort in an 8-7 loss to Texas.
"It would be tough to not come back here because I've known my teammates for a long time, and we have a good relationship," Santana said. "At the same time, it might be time to move on and try different things. If that happens, it happens. I'm not worried about it."
Santana, 29, is in the final year of a four-year, $30-million contract that includes a $13-million option for 2013. There appeared to be no chance of the Angels exercising that option in June and July, when Santana was 2-4 with an 8.16 earned-run average in nine starts.
But Santana righted himself in early August and was 5-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 10 games before Sunday, when he failed to hold a 4-0 first-inning lead in a crucial game and gave up three home runs, pushing his major league-leading total to 39 given up.
"I tried to attack the zone, like I've been doing," said Santana, who gave up one home run to David Murphy and two toformer Angels catcher Mike Napoli. "Every pitch was up, and they took advantage of it."
The Angels can buy out Santana's option for $1 million. They have to make a similar decision on veteran right-hander Dan Haren, who has a $15.5-million option for 2013 that can be bought out for $3.5 million.
There is a good chance the Angels will let both Santana and Haren go and use those resources for an effort to re-sign free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke, who is expected to command at least $20 million per season in a multi-year deal.
It's possible the Angels could pick up one of the options — or bring back Haren or Santana on a restructured, cheaper one-year deal — but even with a $159-million payroll, they probably can't afford to continue to pay their fourth and fifth starters $13 million per year.
First impressions are important, but could Santana's last start leave such a sour taste in the Angels' mouths that it clouds the pitcher's future in Anaheim?
"Everybody understands what he's done," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times this year, he's pitched as well as he ever has. He had a rough one Sunday, but he'd been throwing the ball great for his last nine or 10 starts."
Shortstop Erick Aybar, pulled from the second inning of Sunday night's game because of a right quadriceps injury, did not start Monday night and was only available "if we need him to get a bunt down," Scioscia said. There is good a chance the switch-hitter could sit out the Seattle series. … With his first-inning run-scoring double Monday night, Albert Pujols became the first player in major league history with three seasons of 50 doubles and 30 home runs. … The Inland Empire 66ers reached agreement with the Angels to remain their Class-A affiliate in the California League through 2014.