Could Edgar Santana Be the Answer to the Pirates Middle Relief Woes?

Recent success at home gives the Pirates young reliever confidence and comfort for higher leverage situations.

Noah Hiles
April 18, 2018 - 2:05 pm

© Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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Written by: Noah Hiles

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – As the Pirates continue to search for consistency from the middle relief pitchers in their bullpen, one young righty has silently began to show signs of progress. In just his second year in the major leagues, 26 year old Edgar Santana is gaining the confidence of both his manager and himself to pitch in higher leverage situations.

When replacing starter Trevor Williams on Tuesday at the start of the seventh inning down only two runs, rather than going with a more experienced arm like George Kantos or Michael Feliz, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle decided to go with Santana who normally has only pitched in the later innings if the team was leading or trailing by four or more runs.

Hurdle's decision proved to be the right one as Santana went on to throw a scoreless seventh and eighth, allowing no hits and only walking one batter. Though the Pirates were unable to come from behind for the win, Santana’s performance was something that he and the coaching staff were happy about.

“I feel really good. This is the first time I have gone two innings,” said Santana. “Last year they tried to let me pitch two innings but I never was able to finish so it is very special for me. Now I know that I can do it and they know too. Whenever they need two innings I am going to be there”.

As a rookie in 2017, Santana made just 19 appearances where he had a 3.50 ERA. Now, with some big league experience under his belt, Santana knows that he belongs at the games highest level and that he has the ability to be a difference maker.

“Last year when I came in I was a little nervous about facing big league hitters. I knew that if I made a mistake they’d hit a home run,” said Santana. “But now I just think about how my stuff is really good and I can get hitters out”.

In his past three outings at home, Santana has been lights out, giving the Pirates 3.2 scoreless innings with no hits and only one walk. When asked if he feels better pitching under the lights at PNC Park Santana said, “Sometimes I am more comfortable at home. When you’re at home with the fans you want to do well and impress everybody so it can be more comfortable than the road.”

Now, with Santana finding his stride as a big league pitcher, he has an opportunity to insert himself as a key piece in the Pirates bullpen which has struggled to find a way to get the ball to closer Felipe Vazquez. Though he still has much to prove, if Santana continues to develop he could begin to see himself as a regular later in the game. However, until that moment comes, Santana says he is just focusing on doing the best in whatever role he is given.

“Every time I come into the game my goal is to get us into the 9th inning,” said Santana. “Maybe one day I will be the guy that will step in and always throw the 7th or the 8th inning. They make that decision but if that happens I am ready for it”.